Maternal mortality remains a major challenge in many developing countries. But in Bangladesh, efforts to reduce maternal deaths are paying off.
In the past ten years, the number of Bangladeshi women who died during childbirth dropped from 322 to 194 (out of 100,000 women). For this reason, Bangladesh is optimistic that it may actually achieve the fifth Millennium Development Goal established by all United Nations member-states, which is to reduce maternal deaths by 75 percent by 2015.
Food for the Hungry (FH) plays an active role in saving the lives of mothers and children around the world. In Bangladesh, maternal deaths often occur because of superstitious beliefs and lack of education about proper pregnancy care and child delivery.
To reach out to the women and families in these villages, FH established educational opportunities in savings groups. Members gather regularly to learn about health, sanitation, child care, earning income and money management. Integrated in these lessons are biblical principles that reveal God’s generous love for all people and His promise of blessings to them.
One of FH’s successful solutions to maternal mortality is a 10-day training program for midwives. Most pregnant women who live in the rural areas in Bangladesh deliver at home, often under unsafe conditions. Therefore, having trained midwives is key to saving lives and improving child and maternal health.
Majeda Begum Ayesa, age 50, is one of FH-trained midwives serving women in her village of Khuthipara. In her village, many expectant mothers didn’t have access to prenatal checkups, and they didn’t know how to take care of their newborn babies. People also believed that a pregnant woman should eat very little food to keep the baby from growing. This way, they reasoned, it would be easier for the mother to deliver her baby.
Because of the training that Majeda received, she now compels pregnant women in her small group to get regular checkups. She also teaches them what type of foods to eat, how to prepare for a safe delivery, what precautions to take after delivery, and how to care for their newborn.
In addition, Majeda helps women understand that some of their conventional beliefs and practices can be detrimental to their health and the growth of their children.
Many women consider Majeda their role model. One pregnant woman spoke for all when she said, “We are following her advice, and we are having less complications during pregnancy, and also after the delivery. We are really happy to have a sister like her.”
Majeda couldn’t be more proud of the women’s progress. She says, “I feel very happy to serve pregnant women, and I feel very good when I see a healthy baby on the lap of his mother after the delivery. I feel a sense of satisfaction.”
Majeda says she wants to continue working with FH and educating herself so she can be more effective in serving the women in her small group and their families. Majeda, you and other partners of Food for the Hungry are helping to save newborn infants lives by giving these children a healthy start to life.
Rez Gopez-Sindac is an Austin-based writer and editor covering faith, church management and global development.