The Sindurna char in Lalmonirhat that once saw at least three maternal deaths in a year is now free of the menace, thanks to the free of cost prenatal services being arranged in the remote char.
A local NGO, Eco-Social Development Organization (ESDO), launched the project a year ago and trained four female workers for six months on maternal health. Since then the workers, known as “community skilled birth attendants” or CSBA, had been by the side of pregnant women.
“The project aims at promoting normal delivery over caesarean [the use of surgery to deliver babies],” said Abdul Mannan, manager of the project. “The char on Teesta [river] was chosen for its location as government services hardly reach this remote char.”
The attendants come to the char every day and provide necessary counselling to pregnant women by going door to door, Abdul said. “When the time of delivery comes, the girls are brought to the mainland and admitted to government hospitals. We bear the cost,” he added.
The char in Hatibandha upazila is home to 485 families. There is one government-run primary school, but no high school, clinic or even pharmacy. Boat is the only transport to reach there from the mainland.
Jaheda Begum, 40, is going to be a mother for the third time. “Previously I faced difficulties as no prenatal care was available in this char. This time I am hopeful that my delivery will be normal and safe.”
Ismat Ara Begum, 18, is going have her first baby. “At the beginning, I got scared hearing stories from other women. But now I am confident and hope I will give birth to my child in a safe environment,” she said adding, “The NGO health workers often visit my house.”
Hasina Bewa, a 52-year-old widow, recalled how women in the char used to go through serious difficulties during pregnancy before the NGO workers stepped in.
“We did not have any knowledge over nutrition, menstruation cycles. Now the women on this char are quite aware of how to take care of themselves as they are getting necessary counselling,” she said.
A total 50 mothers have so far been facilitated under the project, “Integrated Community Development Project- II,” funded by Plan International Bangladesh.
Rozina Begum, a CSBA, said, “We visit the char everyday and provide prenatal services free of cost. We take the girls to hospital in case any complication occurs.”
Another attendant Maziron Begum said, “No maternal death has taken place since we started working here. We are trying to build awareness over healthcare among women in this char.”
Dr Ramjan Ali, health and family planning officer in the upazila, praised the initiative by ESDO. “I would request the NGO authorities to run such projects in all the remote chars.”