In a bid to convince expectant mothers in her village to shift into the maternity home that has come up near their Tunkhal village, in Dasamantpur block of Odisha’s Koraput district, 28-year-old Rashmita says, “Go stay at the special home, the lady health assistants will take care of you and you will deliver a healthy baby.” She wants to ensure that the tribal women get the care and nutrition they need to deliver healthy children.
The maternity home has been set up by the Society for Health Education and Development (SHED), a local non-government organisation, with the support of National Rural Health Mission (NHM).
Rashmita, a Paraja tribal woman, has become quite the maternal health champion these days, despite the fact that when she was having her baby last year, their village Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) Chanchala Chetly had to use all of her powers of persuasion to get her to move into the facility, even though she was quite frail and unwell.
During her advanced stage of pregnancy, when the young woman came to the anganwadi for a checkup on the Village Health Nutrition Day (VHND), Chetly found her to be dangerously anaemic. When she told Rashmita and her family elders that it would be in her best interest to shift into the maternity home till her delivery, they were not very keen.
“It was only after I repeatedly spoke to her husband and the family elders that they allowed her to come to the maternity home just a few days before her due date,” reveals Chetly.
It turned out to be a prudent decision taken just in time. Sandhyarani Jena, coordinator at the Dasamantpur block maternity home, recalls, “When Rashmita came to us she was weak. We first took her for a thorough checkup at the government community health centre (CHC). Thereafter, in consultation with the attending doctor we gave her folic acid and calcium tablets regularly, besides ensuring that she was fed nutritional meals and took lots of rest.”
Rashmita eventually gave birth to a healthy infant and since then she is convinced that women must take particular care during pregnancy and definitely go in for institutional delivery. In fact, this busy mother takes out time from her otherwise packed day to reach out to expectant mothers in the area advising them to eat right, take it easy and stay in touch with the government health workers for their routine checkup.
According to Rashmita, the presence of the maternity home in the vicinity of their village is a blessing for the women because now they have “somewhere to go where they can get proper help and attention from professional health assistants”.