Maternal Health At Risk

A maternal health scheme in Rajasthan is not being executed effectively, leaving new mothers and their babies at risk. Sunita has three children herself, and says she knows how difficult the process of childbirth is, and how important post-natal care is for the health of both mother and child. When she gave birth to her children in a government hospital, there were no schemes in place to help her but she had her mother to look after her and show her what to do. The Yasodhara Scheme was introduced in January 2010 to tackle the high rate of maternal and infant mortality rates in Rajasthan. The scheme sets in place a system whereby a certain number of 'yasodhara', or maternal nurses, are trained and hired by local government hospitals to ensure that new mothers and newborns are cared for in the proper manner. As part of this, they have to ensure that only breast milk is fed to the baby within the first two days - in Rajasthani culture, women feed their newborns sugar water traditionally; they must teach the mothers about hygiene and feeding; they should tend to women who have just had abortions. Sunita spent a day filming and interviewing patients and nurses in the local hospital in Karauli. She says the yasodhara barely worked, instead they sat around and chatted the whole time. When she asked why they weren't in the maternity ward, they brushed her off saying they had just taken their rounds and there was nothing urgent to be done. "I spoke to the other nurses, the regular ones," says Sunita. "They said their job was only to deliver the babies, after that it was not their concern. So there is no one helping these women. After speaking to everyone and asking all these questions, the yasodhara started becoming worried." Sunita was rudely told to leave by the chief doctor of the hospital. He told her that just because she was a journalist, she had no right to go around meddling in these affairs and that he didn't have to answer her questions. "I think the yasodhara will only take their job seriously if they have a strict supervisor. An official should come and check on them once or twice a week without warning. Only then they will stop being lazy." Sunita is a member of the press committee in Karauli, and when she told them about this issue they said they would write about it in the local papers as well, with the hope that the yasodhara in this hospital and others would be pushed into fulfilling their duties.

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