Published On: Thu, Sep 12th, 2013

Delivering essential newborn and maternal care to three upazilas in Bangladesh


© UNICEF Bangladesh/2013
Physicians check a newborn baby at Tangail General Hospital. One role of community health volunteers is to provide field-level support until patients can reach institutional health care providers like these.

By Munima Sultana

On 13 September, UNICEF and partners reveal new numbers on global progress towards ending preventable child deaths. The organization’s 2013 Progress Report on Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, which examines trends in child mortality since 1990, analyses the main causes of under-5 deaths and highlights national and global efforts to save children’s lives.A programme in three upazilas in Tangail district, Bangladesh, is training local women like Alo Rani Pal to provide essential maternal and newborn care – at village level.

TANGAIL DISTRICT, Bangladesh, 11 September 2013 – Alo Rani Pal’s days are quite hectic. Her work begins when the first villagers arrive in her courtyard, and, as the day progresses, she’s hardly free to do her own chores – until the last person leaves her home.

Alo Rani Pal allows her courtyard to be used as the Extended Programme for Immunization (EPI) centre of Pal Para village, in the Bashail upazila (sub-district) of Tangail district. Pregnant women, new mothers and children under the age of 5 gather at her home for their vaccinations.

Training a cadre of caregivers

In three upazilas of Tangail district, Alo Rani Pal and a number of other women, including midwives, have been trained with the goal to improve home-based interventions to provide essential maternal and newborn care through a cost-effective approach. The initiative was undertaken by the Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare under the UNICEF-funded project Tangail Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Project. The upazilas were chosen because of low performance on certain indicators pertaining to maternal and newborn care.

Programme Manager Mainul Haque discusses one role that these newly trained caregivers can play in pregnancy and delivery. “As most of the complications during [pregnancy and delivery] could be avoidable, the community health volunteers are actually providing field-level support until they reach the institutional health care service providers,” he explains.

Community health worker Johra Begum says she and her colleagues can now easily identify a low-weight baby, anaemic mother and critical situations during childbirth and guide people to take prompt action to prevent other health complications – and death.

If a patient has complications, the community health volunteers refer her to the upazila health complex. In some cases, they will also arrange transport for them. A roster of suitable drivers is provided to the volunteers, under the project.

Kaki takes a decision

Since the training, Alo Rani Pal, along with colleagues Aleya, Johra Begum, Julekha and other community health volunteers, has been supporting the government’s effort.

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