World Vision Solomon Islands
article • Sunday, May 24th 2015

The importance of healthy mothers and babies

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Noela and her daughter Clementine.

Grant project name: Solomon Islands Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and Nutrition Project
Funded by: The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Time frame: 3 years (October 2014 – June 2017)

Purpose and Objective: The goal of this project is to improve the health and nutrition of 4,021 people in 46 target communities by 2017, with a particular focus on children under-five and pregnant and lactating women. The project is working in Malaita, Makira and Central Islands Provinces.

The Maternal Child Health and Nutrition projects also aim to help communities understand the importance of proper nutrition and promote men to identify themselves alongside their wives as equal players in the family health cycle. 

MEET A YOUNG WOMAN BENEFITTING FROM THIS PROJECT:

The first time was alright. Would the second be the same? Stuck in her lonely village with no medical support, Edna was scared it wouldn’t as her contractions worsened and her family searched the Island for a boat to rush her to the nearest health centre.

Photo: Edna sits with tiny Ansily. 

With a seductive website boosting tourism to the beautiful archipelago, boasting pristine beaches, classic palm trees and clear blue seas, it’s easy to forget that life for many in the Solomon Islands is still incredibly challenging.

In fact, life in some remote villages continues as it always has. Many children don’t live to see their fifth birthdays and mothers die during childbirth at an alarming rate. The contrast with developed nations is stark: the local maternal mortality rate is one death per 1,000 births, while in wealthy countries it’s one in every 4,700.

In the Solomon Islands the local maternal mortality rate is one death per 1,000 births, while in wealthy countries it’s one in every 4,700.

Hailing from the Pacific chain’s Russell Islands, a cluster of isles in Central Province, Edna Maiva is a young mother who has survived childbirth twice. Not all women are as lucky.

Sitting under the neatly thatched palm leaves forming the roof of her house, Edna is flanked by her two-year-old daughter, Raelin, and three-month-old son, Ansily. The 22-year-old says taking care of her young family is hard since copra, the kernel of the coconut used for its oil, is her only source of income.

The household live in a small village whose extreme isolation means every journey is an expedition, with Edna having to paddle a canoe for three hours to attend prenatal checks and seek medical advice during her pregnancies.

Quietly lying in his mother’s lap, Ansily watches proceedings without much interest before dozing off. He was born at home a few days before Christmas with no health worker present because none was available.

The day he was born, Edna was busy working and preparing for Christmas and didn’t sense any signs of labour. That night after dinner, she felt some pain, but thought it was just the normal after-effects of a hard day’s work.

Edna delivered her baby safely at home, and was taken to the nearest health centre the next day. 

As the pain intensified, however, she realised she was in labour. In panic, her family scoured the village for a motorised boat for the hour-long journey to the nearest health centre, but that night none were on hand.

Scared, Edna asked the women in her village to deliver the baby, praying everything would go well. Thankfully, the baby was born safely and the following day both mother and child were taken to the health centre. After a check-up, they were found to be healthy and strong.

Edna says giving birth in the village, which has no trained midwives, was very risky because anything can go wrong with the mother or baby. Distance and a lack of transport to the nearest clinic is a huge challenge for Edna’s community and others like hers in the Solomon Islands.

“Mothers here don’t do much,” she says. “Even when their children are sick, they don’t think of taking them to the health centre because it’s too far away and it’s expensive to hire a boat to travel there.”

The changes from this project will make a big difference in Edna's community. So far the project has identified and trained Village Health Volunteers (VHV) including 2 VHV’s in Edna’s community. 

The Village Health Volunteers visit families and inform them of the importance of looking after their health. Pregnant monthers are visited regularly. 

The VHV’s do house to house visitation and sit down with families to inform them about the importance of looking after their health and their family’s health. Pregnant mothers are visited regularly, checked and reminded to make sure they attend antenatal check-ups. 

The VHV’s have also advocated to husbands and family members not to make their pregnant wives, daughters, sisters and daughters-in-law work hard. Many husbands are now helping their pregnant wives and doing the hard work. 

A male VHV has come up with an initiative for his community where youth groups as part of their community service are helping to make gardens for pregnant mothers and especially those who don’t have husbands so that after giving birth they have enough food to eat and don’t need to worry about where to find food. 

Many of the pregnant women in the islands are now happy that they are getting more rests than their previous pregnancies because their husbands are now supportive than they were before. Many are also delivering their babies at the health centres.

World Vision works with remote communities to promote maternal and child health and encourage pregnant women to regularly visit clinics for prenatal checks, advice and monitoring. The project also helps local people understand the importance of proper nutrition and spurs men to be as responsible as their wives for their families’ health.

Edna is thankful to World Vision for choosing to work with her community and looks forward to learning more from the organisation’s outreach activities. She says: “It’s great that World Vision is here to make people aware of the health of mothers and children.”

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