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At a glance: Indonesia

UNICEF helps train midwives to improve maternal and newborn care in Indonesia

© UNICEF Indonesia/2007/Susanto
Maria, 22, waits to be examined by a midwife with other pregnant women at a clinic in Kupang, Indonesia.

By Suzanna Dayne

KUPANG, Indonesia, 26 March 2007 – Just an hour’s flight from the tourism hub of Bali lies a string of islands known as East Nusa Tenggara (NTT). White sandy beaches, picturesque sunsets and warm, friendly people have made the tiny archipelago look like an idyllic spot.

Behind the beauty of these islands, however, lies a serious health problem affecting  nearly every family. NTT has one of the highest infant mortality rates of any Indonesian region, mainly due to poor nutrition and lack of access to skilled health workers.

With funding from Australia and the United Kingdom, UNICEF is working with the Indonesian Government to provide better services to mothers and their infants. The project includes support for local health clinics and training of midwives.

“Our project here is designed to raise the level of professionalism among local midwives,” explained the Chief of UNICEF’s NTT field office, Virginia Kadarsan. “But we face many challenges. Many expectant mothers do not realize that although pregnancy is a normal condition, it does pose an added health risk.”

© UNICEF Indonesia/2007/Susanto
Midwife Solikha Primoes counsels Maria about proper diet during her pregnancy.

Birth attendants lack training

Many Indonesian women go to ‘dukuns’ – traditional birth attendants – when it’s time to deliver. These attendants rarely have any formal training, and they have little access to emergency equipment.

“The birth attendants often tell women in labor to push when they feel any kind of pain,” said a local midwife in NTT, Solikha Primoes. “Then they run into trouble. Many of these women end up on my doorstep, tired and weak.

“That’s why it is vital that all women get proper care during pregnancy, so we can identify health issues in advance,” she added.

Basic care is essential

Maria, a 22-year-old woman under Solikha’s care, is expecting her first child. Early on, a routine blood test revealed that she was anaemic and lacked adequate iron in her blood. This condition can lead to severe bleeding during delivery and even the death of both mother and newborn.

© UNICEF Indonesia/2007/Susanto
Cely’s newborn son gets his first glimpse of his mother.

Solikha counseled the young woman about her nutrition and diet during pregnancy and provided her with iron supplements, preventing what could have become a dangerous situation for Maria and her baby. Basic care like this is essential for all pregnant women, yet many traditional birth attendants are unable to provide it.

Like many other midwives in Indonesia, Solikha not only works at government and private health clinics but also runs a birth centre in her own home. She has dedicated four rooms in her house for women to deliver and recuperate.

Each new baby a miracle

Cely, a first-time mother-to-be, went into labour quickly but managed to get to Solikha’s home just in time. “I had to rush from my practice at the local health centre,” said Solikha. “This happens quite a lot. But I have been delivering babies for more than 25 years and I am used to it by now.

“Each time I help bring a new baby into the world I realize what a miracle it is, and how special that day is for each and every mother,” she added.

With Solikha’s help, Cely’s delivery went smoothly. Her miracle was a healthy baby boy – all six pounds, eight ounces.




26 March 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Suzanna Dayne reports on efforts to provide maternal and newborn care through the training of midwives in Indonesia.
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