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Emergency obstetric care helps save the lives of a mother and her baby

By Suzanne Davey

August 23rd, Mannar -Sri Lanka, 4.08am. The sound of a baby’s cry suddenly echoes through the walls of the Mannar Hospital in the North West coast. The cries are welcomed by its mother, 37 year old Gnaneswary. Due to complications with the pregnancy, Gnaneswary was rushed to hospital the previous night.

Gnaneswary lives in the small village 45 kilometres away. She has three other children, 16 year old Johnson,13 year old Johnsy and 12 year old Anne. All three children go to school and are supported by their father, Melki Sethek. With a large family to feed, Melki does paddy cultivation and during the off season he works as an unskilled labourer.

Since she fell pregnant with her forth child last year in December, Gnaneswary has been regularly receiving free antenatal care services supported by UNICEF at her local village clinic. A mid-wife and a Medical Officer of Health does the check-ups and provides advice to mothers like Gnaneswary. “They told me to get a scan and do some other diagnostic tests as I was medically recognized as at-risk” said Gnaneswary.

During the late hours of 22nd August, Gnaeswary suddenly experienced dribbling and dehydration. Recalling the advice received at the clinic, she immediately recognized the symptoms as inevitably dangerous for her impending birth. She was rushed off in an ambulance to a smaller hospital nearby. Given the complications the doctors there advised that Gnaneswary be taken to the better equipped base hospital in Mannar town. On reaching the hosptial, the doctors discovered that she was in pre-term labour with the rapid progression of dehydration and performed an emergency cesarian section.

“They were able to save my life and the life of my baby” says Gnaneswary. Her new daughter Anshika had a birth weight of 2.21 kilograms of weight and length of 49cm. She was immediately treated with antibiotic therapy.

UNICEF support

Due to UNICEF’s support through training of health staff on neonatal survival, complicated pregnancy cases like Gnaneswary can be treated and the lives of countless infants can be saved.

Globally 40 per cent of under 5 deaths occur during the first 28 days of life and 14 per cent is mainly due to preterm births. Training and skill building of health staff is making a big difference in the survival rates of infants in Mannar district.

Story based on information and photos collected by Sutharman Nadaraja



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