Safe births also in rural areas

  • Since 2012, the Vicente Ferrer Foundation carries out a program to promote maternal and infant health in villages usually far from adequate hospital care for childbirth

Considering that half of pregnant women in India are anemic (according to UNICEF) and the rate of adult women with low body mass index is 36% - the highest rate in the world and three times that of Sub-Saharan African countries - to be pregnant in the subcontinent becomes a high-risk process.

In the case of rural areas where the Foundation is present (the districts of Anantapur, Kurnool and Srisailam, in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh), complications are increased: remote villages with no means of transportation to hospitals, superstitions about childbirth, childbirths in homes without adequate attention, etc. In fact, according to a gynecological study of Future Health Systems, 44% of mothers suffer from postpartum illness of any kind within six weeks of giving birth in rural areas.

Since 2012, the Vicente Ferrer Foundation (VFF) is carrying out a program to reduce maternal and infant mortality and morbidity, promoting awareness activities among pregnant women: workshops where they are explained the importance of professional health care, antepartum and postpartum examinations, institutional delivery, tips on mother and child health and nutrition, etc. Last year these actions were conducted with 800 pregnant women and this year is expected to be extended to another 800.

Expectant moms with bulging saris go to the gynecology department of VFF's Bathalapalli and Kalyandurg hospitals. Every month, some 1,150 mothers visit the hospitals to give birth. This is the case of Umadevi, who gave birth to her first child and had to register him as "son of Umadevi", because children are not given a name until three months of age. Had she not gone to the Bathalapalli Hospital, this first-time mother would have given birth at home with the danger this entails. "The risks of births at homes or in clinics without adequate means are many: infections both for the mother and child, long labors causing the child's death by suffocation, death by bleeding, etc.," explains Sirappa, Rural Health Care Director in the Foundation.

The main objective of this project is to prevent maternal and infant mortality and improve maternal and infant health, since the first years of life are vital to their development and complications in pregnancy can involve irreversible damage. One of the controls carried out in medical examinations to pregnant women is the HIV test (in case of positive outcome, vertical transmission from mother to child is prevented by giving them the right treatment). The mother is also subject to a weight and hemoglobin test, in order to implement the adequate measures for their anemia condition.

Dr. Jyothi Suchitra, responsible for the Safe Births Program, explains that the Bathalapalli Hospital of the VFF is the only hospital to have a blood bank and the only neonatal intensive-care unit in the entire district of Anantapur (in a 250km radius). For these reasons, it is increasingly easy to convince pregnant women to attend hospital centers of the VFF to ensure their health and that of their babies.

Umadevi, shortly after giving birth to her first child at the Bathalapalli Hospital of the VFF. © Nina Tramullas/VFF


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Anne Ferrer, who has been working as a social worker in rural parts of Andhra Pradesh, received the Jamnalal Bajaj Award 2015 for her contribution in the field of development and welfare of Women and Children in India.
The telephone rings. It is the 1,098 time the VFF staff in India answer the urgent needs of the community using the anonymous help line. 24 hours, 7 days a week urgent calls of a wide variety come in and much needed support is given immediately.