Improving Mother-and-Infant Health

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - IN Indonesia`s remote regions, many still believe in age-old superstitions and traditions, including those surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. Some women prefer to give birth at home, with the help of traditional birth attendants and without supervision from trained medical personnel, endangering both mother and infant. According to the health ministry, Indonesia’s maternal mortality is still considerably high at around three deaths per 1,000 births in 2016, with an infant mortality rate of 25 per 1,000 births. Pencerah Nusantara (Guiding Light of the Archipelago), a program that sends young medical professionals to regions with no access to proper healthcare, aims to alleviate this urgent concern in the Gunung Mas Regency, Central Kalimantan, and North Mamuju, West Sulawesi. In commemoration of National Health Day on November 12, Tempo English reports.

    safe Childbirth in Central Kalimantan

    Pencerah Nusantara battles the lack of trust towards healthcare centers. They work with local doctors and midwives to improve maternal and neonatal health in Central Kalimantan. 

    Suryanita, a coordinator at a Posyandu (integrated health clinic) in the Tumbang Pasangon village, Central Kalimantan, felt like she was fighting an uphill battle. Every day, she attempted to convince pregnant and breastfeeding women to visit the Puskesmas (public healthcare center) to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy infant. "I’ve been on the staff since 2004," said the 38-year-old. 

    Suryanita, who works voluntarily, believes it is her obligation to share her experience in order to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality. Unfortunately, many women in Tumbang Pasangon still believe in traditional birth attendants and age-old superstitions. "They choose to give birth at home and some never bother to have their pregnancy checked," she said. 

    The homemaker already had some experience in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan’s capital city, where many women would visit the Puskesmas or Posyandu regularly during their pregnancy. 

    Suryanita also actively promotes contraception and advises women to wait several years before having another child. "Many women would get pregnant again before their previous children are even able to walk. This can lead to neglect, and (the children’s) education may not be guaranteed because of economic reasons," said Suryanita.

    Her job was made easier when Pencerah Nusantara (Guiding Light of the Archipelago) came to the regency in 2016. Suryanita partners with the team of young healthcare professionals running several programs aimed at improving maternal and neonatal health.

    "I’m glad they came to Tumbang Pasangon. I’ve learned from them. I also explain the culture here, so they know how to approach people."

    But despite their programs encouraging pregnant women to visit health clinics, Suryanita does not wish for people to simply shun traditional birth attendants. She believes their experience and connection to the people can be valuable in tackling problems. 

    Read more inspiring Outreach stories in Tempo English Weekly Magazine