Author’s note: This is the third 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 and second post click on the links.
Having a baby should be one of the most joyous times of a woman’s life. Yet tragically throughout the developing world childbirth is also one of the most deadly times of a woman’s life as well as the life of her newborn child.
Per Save the Children an alarming 3 million babies died globally in their first month of life (2010) and India continues to have a persistently high rate of newborn mortality accounting for 29% of all first day deaths globally or 309,000 a year.
India is not an easy place to be a mother either. A decade ago close to 75,000 women died during childbirth every year. Although that number has been reduced to 56,000 in 2010, it is still way too high, especially given the tragic fact that many of these deaths are preventable.
In India, there is no place that it is more dangerous to be a woman giving birth than in the slums where woman lack access to basic health care services, midwifes and hospitals. Yet organizations like Save the Children are making remarkable progress in educating women about prenatal and postnatal care as well as the importance of delivering their child in a hospital.
Inside the Indira Kalyan slum, Save the Children is partnering with the government and other local NGOs to improve the rates of maternal and newborn survival by the use of mobile health units, access to Frontline Health Care Workers and offering education to pregnant mothers. Our final visit within the camp was to observe an expectant mothers class being taught by Nibha, a Community Health Care Volunteer who works inside the compound.
As we walked further inside the slum through its meandering dirt streets and narrow passageways between buildings, I couldn’t help but wonder how people survive. The Indira Kalyan camp is an unauthorized slum meaning it does not have running water or access to sanitation. It was cleaner than I expected yet with temperatures soaring into the painful highs of 120 degrees Fahrenheit I thought about the lack of safe drinking water, toilets, showers and even air-conditioning to cool you off. Most residents remained inside where it was cooler and they could escape the scorching sun.
After a ten minute walk we reached the center where the expectant mother’s group was being held. Here the pregnant women within the community meet every month to learn more about the basics of pre and post-natal care as well as build community and support with other mothers.
During the meeting, pregnant women learned about the importance of pre-natal check-ups, taking iron and calcium supplements, and the life-saving benefits of breastfeeding. The women also learn about nutrition and how to prepare nutritious, low-cost foods for themselves and their families.
The room was a welcoming place not only for mothers but for their children.
I left Indira Kalyan camp feeling a sense of hope in the work that is being done by Save the Children to save lives and make the hard life in a slum better. Although there is much work to be done, the smiles on the children’s faces will remind me that there is beauty even in a place of so much desperation and struggle. We’ve got to fight for it.