UNICEF Supports Community Action Process to Improve and Save Lives
By Fatima Shahryar
RAJANPUR DISTRICT, PAKISTAN, November 7, 2013 - “Life seemed to have lost its meaning as my newborns would die every time soon after birth. My family had become distant and with everyone, I too became convinced that God is not happy with me,” says Zareena Bibi.
Zareena is a resident of Jampur, a Union Council (UC) of Rajanpur district, Punjab Province. She is now a mother of two-year Muhammad Tayyab, her only surviving son after five stillbirths. Zareena represents a number of women who live in far flung rural areas of Pakistan, with little access to, and awareness about health services. The community opinion leaders and traditional birth attendants are their guides to health related problems and daily life issues.
“I found Zareena in a very sad state. She had become psychologically disturbed upon not being able to give birth to live babies or losing them soon after birth.” says Sughra Bibi, the local Community Support Group (CSG) Coordinator.
CSG is a small group formed by the UNICEF implementing partner Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) in selected communities. The group comprises of volunteers working on a specific health area e.g. nutrition, polio, mother and newborn child health (MNCH), and emergency etc. under Community Action Process (CAP). These members are sensitized, trained and mobilized to carry out activities in their community. The activities include awareness raising sessions, mobilization, and improving access to health care centers in coordination with local Lady Health Workers and other health care providers (HCPs).
In Rajanpur, a local NGO Jahandad Society for Community Development (JSCD), with support from UNICEF, is implementing CAP and has formed CSGs in 12 UCs of the district. Sughra Bibi, along with her team was on a usual visit for home-to-home services when they were informed about Zareena, a woman whose children die soon after birth. Sughra met Zareena and her family members to gather some insight on the case.
“Zareena’s mother in law told me about Zareena’s condition and informed me that she is pregnant again. I knew instantly that this is the time to refer her to a doctor at nearest health facility.”
Unfortunately, there are still some areas in South Punjab where there are no trained health care providers. Therefore, to address this issue and ensure provision of health services, local CSG coordinators are educated and delegated the duty of taking the message across.
“Sughra took me to a doctor who advised me on my health and antenatal care. She also gave me a TT injection and prepared an injection schedule for which I followed, as I could no more afford to lose a child again. I cannot express the happiness that I feel every time that I look at my two-year son. I visit my doctor regularly now and not only that, I encourage other women too to seek regular health care services only from a trained health care provider” explains Zareena.
Zareena along with other women of the area is now an active member of the local CSG. She attends sessions regularly and helps in successful implementation of various health activities. Sessions are held at a venue specially designated for group meetings. The NGOs working on CAP are primarily aiming to assist the provincial governments in expanding health agenda and ensuring access to farfetched areas with support from UNICEF.
The CSG formed in Jampur, is a group of 55 members with 15 men, 15 women, 15 girls and 10 boys. The members are residents of the same UC, the total population of which is 1425, comprising of 220 households.
Pakistan is a developing country with high maternal and newborn mortality rates. Not only this, but a vast majority of the country remains unaware and far from access to not only health but also education and other basic life necessities.