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The Health Worker Difference

Aklima Begum proudly displays her traditional birth attendant certificates, which she received through World Vision’s training. Photo: ©2011 Lipy Mary Rodrigues/World Vision

Aklima Begum proudly displays her traditional birth attendant certificates, which she received through World Vision’s training.
Photo: ©2011 Lipy Mary Rodrigues/World Vision

In February, my nephew Will was born. I am not a mother myself, so I take great pride in my nieces and new nephew and try to be a great auntie (which may or may not involve some spoiling on occasion).

Will had a tough few weeks after he was born. He has Down Syndrome, which involves many complications at birth and beyond. He has a hole in his heart, was on oxygen, had a feeding tube – things that required him to be in the neonatal intensive care unit for several weeks and have around the clock care and support. Even now, his early weeks in the world have been filled with doctor visits and a lot of poking, prodding and tests.

Will is blessed, though. He was born in a children’s hospital surrounded by doctors and nurses. He was monitored by machines that warned of any complications and had access to tests that gave important information like his platelet count and oxygen levels. Many children are not so fortunate. Of the nearly 7 million deaths of children under five every year, 43 percent occur within the first 28 days after childbirth. Deaths from preventable causes like infections and birth complications are all too common.

A baby’s chance of survival increases dramatically, however, with the presence of a skilled birth attendant. In rural areas, such as those where World Vision has focused its work, traditional birth attendants and midwives in particular are critical “frontline” health workers that help mothers and babies that can’t easily access a hospital.

These workers are taught proper hygiene practices to prevent infections and trained to notice the danger signs during pregnancy or a child’s delivery. They learn how to administer inexpensive treatments that can stop postpartum hemorrhaging, which kills thousands of mothers every year. They staff clinics that teach women proper nutrition so that they have strong, healthy babies.

As a member of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, World Vision is raising its voice in support of increasing access to health workers for the millions of mothers and babies who live out of the reach of hospitals and often out of the reach of even a basic health clinic. It is estimated that 1 billion people in the world do not have access to basic health care, a number that is almost unfathomable to most of us, but it is a number that we can do something about by investing in health workers.

To learn more about how World Vision is raising its voice for mothers and babies, please visit www.beyond5.org.

by Lisa Bos, World Vision Policy Advisor for Health, Education and WASH

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