Pakistan: Changing attitudes and improving maternal health care

9 March, 2012
Hasina with her twins. Credit: OCHA Pakistan
Hasina with her twins. Credit: OCHA Pakistan

Hasina* lives in a village near Sibi in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province. She was ill during her pregnancy, but her family and friends discouraged her from seeking medical attention. Some of them found it embarrassing to see a doctor during pregnancy for privacy reasons, while others were concerned about taking medicine during pregnancy.

 
Towards the end of her pregnancy, Hasina told Kulsoom Akhtar, a health outreach worker from the ARC International, that she was ill. Kulsoom was in the village conducting an awareness session on health, hygiene and care for newborns. 
 
ARC, an international NGO, had recently received a grant for US$459,300 from OCHA’s Emergency Response Fund (ERF). The funds were used to implement a project to make medical services more accessible in rural Pakistan. ARC was able to provide additional health-care staff, medical equipment and medicine, and rehabilitate medical facilities. 
 
A community midwife from ARC was immediately sent to the village to examine Hasina. She found that Hasina was anaemic, underweight, and suffering from fever and a skin infection. She also needed an ultrasound to check on her baby’s health.  
 
ARC health workers persuaded Hasina’s family to allow her to undergo an ultrasound and receive urgent medical attention. They also explained the advantages and importance of antenatal and post-natal care. 
 
The ultrasound revealed that Hasina was pregnant with twins, but they were weak. “If we had not been there on time for Hasina, she would probably have lost her babies,” says Kulsoom.  
 
Hasina needed vitamin supplements and a nutritious diet to improve her health. The health-care workers also advised her family to take her into a proper health facility in Sibi during labour. For many families in Hasina’s community, is it more appropriate to deliver a baby at home than at a hospital.    
 
Today, Hasina is the proud mother of a healthy boy and a girl. “I cannot express my feelings enough, but I know that when I see my children I feel blessed. I know they are alive only because ARC was there on time,” she says. 
 
 
* Not her real name
 
Reporting by Laksmita Noviera/ OCHA Pakistan