Thirdeyemom

India’s Frontline Health Care Workers: Working door to door to save lives

Author’s note: This is the second post documenting my visit on behalf of Mom Bloggers for Social Good to see Save the Children’s work at the Indira Kalyan slum in Delhi, India. To read the first post click here

India has made a tremendous amount of progress over the last two decades fighting to save the lives of mothers and children. A decade ago close to 75,000 women died during childbirth every year and this number has been reduced to 56,000 in 2010. Significant progress has also been made in newborn survival. Since 1990, India has reduced the rate of deaths of children under 5 by 46% or almost in half. Despite the major achievements, newborn and maternal dealths are still way too high given the tragic fact that many of these deaths are largely preventable. The situation is especially dire in India, the second most populous country in the world, with a hugely disproportionate percentage of maternal and newborn deaths.

The Indira Kalyan Camp Delhi

Inside The Indira Kalyan Camp, an unauthorized slum in Delhi

The Indira Kalyan Camp

Women inside the indira Kalyan Camp

Per Save the Children’s 2013 State of World’s Mother’s Report:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 deaths of children under age five are in India. (1.6 million children or 29% of the global total ).
  • 19% of these deaths take place on the day a child is born and 53% occur within the first month of birth.
  • Large scale inequities within India continue to persist today in terms of wealth disparities, rural-urban divide, education, age of mother, caste, which means that not all babies born in India have an equal change of survival.
Children within the Indira Kalyan Camp

Children within the Indira Kalyan Camp pose for a picture

One of the most effective ways to dramatically improve maternal and newborn health in India and around the developing world is by employing health workers on the front line who can reach the most vulnerable mothers and babies.  Oftentimes, many of these women have to walk hours or sometimes even days to reach a doctor or even a clinic for care.  In many places in the world, Frontline Health Care workers are the only medical care that millions of woman and children receive and are the most cost-effective and practical way to save lives.

In India, an integral part of Save the Children’s “Bringing Healthcare to the Doorstep” strategy involves working with Frontline Health Care Workers such as ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) and Aanganwari workers (AWW) in the most desperate places. Working in partnership with local NGOs and the government, Save the Children has made remarkable progress in helping save the lives of mothers and children.

As part of my trip to India with Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, the next part of our visit with Save the Children was to meet with the women on the ground who were making a difference.  After touring the Mobile Van Units (MVU) outside of the Indira Kalyan Camp, we walked inside the slum to a dusty courtyard where we got to meet face to face with the Frontline Health Care workers and learn more about the amazing work they are doing on the ground.

Meeting with Frontline Health Care Workers in The Indira Kalyan Camp

Meeting with Frontline Health Care Workers in the Indira Kalyan Camp

It was an unbearably hot day with highs nearing 120 degrees Fahrenheit, common for the end of May in Delhi, and we managed to find a large shady tree to assemble our meeting.  Thankfully we had a translator along since the women did not speak much English. We gathered for a half hour listening to the women tell us about their lives and what a typical day was like on the job.

Meeting with Frontline Health Care Workers in The Indira Kalyan Camp

Meeting with Frontline Health Care Workers in The Indira Kalyan Camp

The beautiful colorful dresses worn by Indian women captured my attention.

We spent some time speaking with Sharmila, an Aanganwari worker who has worked for 19 years in the community providing care for women and children. Sharmila’s life is not easy. She rises early and works a full day seeing hundreds of patients for six days a week. Yet you could tell by her warm, caring smile that she loved her job and understood how important she was to the mothers and children she sees.

Meeting with Frontline Health Care Workers in The Indira Kalyan Camp

I loved the button on Sharmila’s purse.

The goal of the Frontline Health Care workers is to educate and visit as many pregnant women as possible to ensure they are receiving the proper prenatal care and strive for a hospital delivery of the baby.  After the baby is born, the workers continue to visit the mother and newborn child to ensure they are thriving. These simple health care visits help mothers and babies survive.

Meeting with Frontline Health Care Workers in The Indira Kalyan Camp

After our meeting, it was time to visit a prenatal class being held within the camp. We thanked Sharmila and her friends for taking the time to meet with us and tried to head out to our next visit yet were stopped unexpectedly by smiling children who desperately wanted their picture taken. How could I resist their beautiful smiles?

Young Indian boy

A young boy watching our meeting with interest

Children at the Indira Kalyan Camp

Girls who live within the slums

Children at the Indira Kalyan Camp

Smiling boys

The children inside the Indira Kalyan Camp were curious about their foreign visitors and were extremely playful in front of the camera. They all begged for their pictures to be taken and I could have spent the rest of the afternoon there capturing their photos on film. They were absolutely lovely and reminded me of why this work is so incredibly important.

Related posts:

Save the Children Bringing Healthcare to the Doorstep in the Slums of Delhi

Meeting Frontline Health Workers in Delhi (by Jennifer James on “The Impatient Optimists”)

27 comments

  1. anotherjennifer

    What a wonderful experience to be able to talk with the frontline workers themselves. I’m sure it was eye-opening. They do amazing work! Love the photos of the children.

    • Thanks Jennifer! It was really a great trip. I’ve done a lot of international volunteer work before with children too and they always warm my heart.

  2. Nicole, thank you for this wonderful post. Your dedication to helping make a difference in the lives of women and children is inspiring. It truly reminds me of a war with the Frontline Heath Care Workers going door to door to save lives. Sadly, it is a war, isn’t it? Hopefully, by creating an awareness more children will survive their first year after birth. The statistics are staggering…so much more to do.

    • Thanks so much. It is so hard to believe that so much of the world lives like this. What is health care like in Nicaragua? Do most women deliver in the hospital? Curious to know.

      • Nicole, I wrote a post about a birth I attended on the island. I think it was called Giving the Light. Most women deliver in the hospital, but honestly, I think they would be better off delivering at home. There are very few hospital supplies and all patients bring their own sheets, and other necessities. It’s not a pretty sight.

      • I guess I should have clarified my comment. I got lost in the moment! I was wondering if women had at least a skilled midwife with them even if at home? A lot of the high maternal mortality rates due to complications that result when women give birth unattended at home. That is sad about the hospital situations. I can’t even begin to imagine! I know a lot of friends who did have complications during childbirth and would have died without trained medical care.

      • No skilled midwife if they deliver at home. Scary, huh? I was an apprentice midwife years ago, and I’ve helped deliver many babies, but all under midwife or Dr. supervision. Health care on the island is really pitiful. We do have a wonderful clinic started by a homeopathic Dr. from the states that provides maternal and prenatal care. Thank goodness for them.

    • Thanks Jennifer. Looking back now, I realize how much we packed in and learned in such a short time. I thank you again for such an amazing opportunity. 🙂

  3. Pingback: India’s Frontline Health Care Workers: Working door to door to save lives | iClinicRN

  4. Such wonderful photos Nicole! How wonderful that you are able to capture images of their lives and share the stories of the Frontline healthcare workers. Such vital work they are doing, god bless them!

  5. TBM

    Alarming and depressing statistics. I do admire people who get out there and help. All of us on some level can help. Have you ever seen the documentary RX for survival (I think that’s the title). Brad Pitt narrated it and it’s very informative and can be depressing.

  6. Pingback: How Save the Children is Saving the Unborn Child in India | Thirdeyemom

  7. Lovely article and beautiful photos! Do you know if there are opportunities for people sympathetic with the cause to volunteer? If so, do you have any specifics? Thanks, Krista.

    • Hi Krista: Thanks so much for your email! I am not sure about volunteering in India. I’ve done a ton of volunteer work and most of the time have just reached out and contacted the organizations I’ve been interested in. Good luck! 🙂

  8. Another inspiring post, Nicole. What incredible work these ladies do. You were privileged to be invited on such an insightful trip to India and have the opportunity to spread the word about the hardships of women and children there. You captured some stunning images, especially the first one of the three children and the ladies in their colorful saris!

    • Thanks Lucy and yes you are indeed correct that it was quite an honor to go on this trip and see the work on the ground that people are doing to help others. I love the colorful saris women wear too. Just beautiful. I loved India despite all the poverty, it is such a rich culture and the food is the best I’ve ever had. Mmmmmm

      • I still haven’t made it to India but think I’d love it for it’s culture. I’ve never been a huge lover of Indian food though. I don’t dislike it but I find Thai food much lighter, less rich.

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