A tale of two families
Two families had two very experiences of parenthood on the same day in Karua. A baby girl had just been born to each of the families in this poor village in Bihar’s Khagaria district. Both were born at the nearest government primary health centre in Chautham. Yet the atmosphere in the two homes, just a hundred metres apart, was quite different: there was grim silence in Mohammad Irshad’s house and the sound of happy banter was flowing from Mohammad Karim’s. The reason for the difference was, seemingly, lack of information.
When Irshad’s wife Hasmatun Khatun was rushed to the centre, they had to pay for several things along the way. The total cost, including transport, came to Rs 800 (about $16). It was too much for this family of labourers who earn between Rs 4,000 and 6,000 a month ($80-120). “How can we afford it? I heard that we could have got all that for free. And today I don’t have enough money to feed my family,” says Irshad, fighting back tears.
Irshad and his wife had made no plans for the delivery of their baby – no money was saved for medicine, food or transport. Irshad says that his family didn’t get the Rs 1,400 ($28) they were entitled to (under the government-sponsored Janani Suraksha Yojna, or Mother Safety Scheme) because he didn’t know he had to carry his identity card to the hospital.
Karim and his wife Hasmun Khatun, on the other hand, began planning for the birth of their child early on in her pregnancy. They met the ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) and registered Hasmun’s pregnancy. They also planned transportation and saved a little money every month. Karim says, “We knew what we were entitled to and had the papers ready. We got the Rs 1,400. Yes, we were asked to buy some injections (vaccine shots) because the centre had run out of them. But that was all.”
Pregnant women need to be encouraged to register with Community Health Workers, because it entitles them to free health care services and food rations provided by the Government of Bihar.
Pregnant women need to be encouraged to visit their nearest primary health centre for ante-natal check-ups.
Families need to be encouraged to plan transport so that they are able to reach the nearest primary health center or hospital before the birth of their child.
Primary health centres provide a free ambulance service to transport pregnant women to the centre for delivery. Families need to be encouraged to keep the ambulance contact number handy, and arrange for a backup vehicle.
Although women are encouraged to deliver their babies at the hospital, many deliveries in Bihar take place at home. To make such deliveries safe, families need to be encouraged to have soap, a new razor blade, thread and two sheets of clean cloth ready to use in case the baby has to be delivered at home.