Women May Now Give Birth Safely Around the Clock
By A Sami Malik
This story is part of a special series highlighting the experiences of Pakistani children and women who were affected by the devastating 2010 monsoon floods that struck Pakistan one year ago.
Haji Ghazi, Dera Ghazi Khan District, Punjab: Dozens of women, some pregnant and some holding their newborn children, fill a room where a lady doctor carefully examines and provides medical advice to every patient visiting the Basic Health Unit (BHU) Haji Ghazi, in a small town in Dera Ghazi Khan district of southern Punjab.
Rabiya (20) patiently waits for her turn, holding Mariyam, her 13-day-old daughter, in her arms. This is Rabiya’s first child. She delivered her in this BHU and has brought her in for a routine checkup. Rabiya is conscientious about all medical checkups – for herself as well as the baby.
“I got pregnant soon after the floods when we returned to our village from a camp. These were tough times as our crops were wiped out by water and we had to rebuild our house. I knew that delivering in a private clinic is expensive and we didn’t have enough money. I was also worried hearing all those stories about women delivering on their way to the city hospital which is far off. Some of these women died and some lost their children,” says Rabiya.
“Baji Kulsoom (a health supervisor) brought the good news. She told me that the small clinic (BHU) in our town has now become a hospital and babies can be delivered here. I started visiting Dr. Nazia Shahid in the hospital and delivered my daughter in the BHU. It was early in the morning and the doctor was with me all the time. Now I bring Mariyam for her checkups and vaccination. It is easy as I can walk from my house to the hospital.”
During the last seven months 462 successful deliveries had taken place in BHU Haji Ghazi. Not a single child died. Yet, for 14 years before the floods, not a single child had been delivered in this BHU.
Pregnancy and child birth used to be immensely difficult for the women of Haji Ghazi. Transportation to the nearest health facility, the cost of medical care and delivering in a private clinic and the risk of not reaching there in time to give birth was a major concern not only for pregnant women but the entire community. Prior to the floods, this previous lack of obstetric and neonatal health care services in the BHU meant that a number of women lost their lives and some their unborn or newly born children.
After the floods, UNICEF teamed up with the Punjab Health Department to initiate Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care (EmONC) services for affected women and children in Dera Ghazi Khan district. Scarcity of food and clean drinking water had worsened the situation of malnutrition, a common problem in rural areas of Pakistan.
Along with 12 other BHUs in the district, round the clock EmONC services were started in BHU Haji Ghazi in November 2010.
“No one in this town, especially a pregnant woman, could have imagined receiving medical attention in the middle of the night. Round the clock medical care every day of the week and so close to their houses is a true blessing for the people of this town. It has made my job easy. If any woman in the community needs medical attention, I bring her to the BHU,” says the Health Supervisor, Baji Kulsoom.
“This BHU also serves as the central registration point. All patients and new born are issued registration cards. Each visit is noted on the card. This helps maintain a record of their treatment and vaccination.”