Committed to serving mothers and children
Health cadres in Kupang strive to continue providing essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic
Once a month, Ibu Linda’s front room is filled with chatty volunteers and giggling babies. Sometimes it gets a bit messy, sometimes it can be a bit loud, but as a voluntary health cadre, Linda wouldn’t have it any other way. Since 2007, on the 12th of every month, her house has doubled up as a posyandu (community health post) where all the local parents bring their children for check-ups, monitoring, vaccinations, and general child healthcare advice.
Since as long as she can remember, Linda (which is short for Ermelinda) dreamt of following in her father’s footsteps to become a nurse. Although that wasn’t ultimately possible, she chose to become a voluntary cadre, supporting the health care workers and community midwives to carry out their work. Influenced by her father’s love for his work with children, Linda was determined to stay close to the community and support in whatever way she could. So, with her own dedication and the unwavering support of her husband and family, she happily offered her house for the monthly check-ups to take place.
Posyandu Kamboja IV-C, which is a subsidiary of the local health centre (puskesmas), has since become a shining example of success. Managed by five voluntary cadres including Linda, together with a midwife and health worker from the puskesmas, the posyandu reaches universal child immunization year after year, as every single child in the village is always properly vaccinated. And due to the skillful coordination of Agustina Sakan (chairwoman of cadres), Dina, Ulinda, Ermelinda, and Yanti, it doesn’t show any signs of stopping.
The five cadres run a tight ship. Every new birth is recorded in their system, and so they know exactly who is up to date with their immunizations, and also who is not. There are currently 30 families with young children registered, who they keep in touch with over whatsapp. They also collaborate with the local religious leaders to help make announcements on days of worship. Crucially though, if any one of them misses a session, the cadres will make a house call to make sure everything is okay.
Even when the posyandu had to close for a couple of months at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Linda and her fellow cadres still didn’t stop caring. They continued to keep in touch with the parents and made sure that they knew what to do and where to go while her house was unable to open.
“When the posyandu was closed, the cadres sent reminders by whatsapp so I knew to go to the puskesmas when immunizations were due,” says a regular at the posyandu with her son.
“The midwives always tell me about the vaccine, explaining the benefits and side effects, which makes me feel very confident,” she adds.
As soon as the posyandu was able to open up again, they followed government advice: health workers now always use masks and PPE, cadres use masks, there are seats arranged for mothers and children, and Ibu Linda makes sure to provide a spot for hand washing at the entrance. The house works especially well during this time because there’s a lot of space, with a big yard to the front, filled with trees and beautiful flowers, so it’s easy enough to ensure social distancing too.
The cadres also ask mothers to wear masks and bring their own sarongs to weigh their children. "Before the pandemic, all we needed to bring was the health book,” laughs Ibu Arince. “Now when we come to the posyandu, we have to bring our own weighing cloth, wear a mask, wash hands, keep a distance, and so on.”
It all helps to ensure that everyone feels safe and cared for. The cadres still continue to provide the same services, even if they need to make some adjustments. They still prepare PMT, or supplementary feeding for children for example, even though due to the pandemic it can no longer be eaten at the premises but must be eaten at home as advised by the cadres.
“Hopefully the cadres and health workers will stay healthy so they can continue to provide services,” says a mother who has brought her 4-month-old baby to be immunized. “The Puskesmas and Posyandu remain open under any circumstances, so that the children in this village are healthy.”
When the monthly posyandu session comes to a close, Ibu Linda and her fellow cadres pack away the chairs, weighing scales and other monitoring materials. They make notes in their registers and check who might have been missed. Then they set off with the midwife and healthcare worker to make home visits to the few pregnant women in the village. Maybe at the next monthly session, one of those pregnancies will already have made way for the newest giggling baby to join the community.