Amanda Phillips was 14 weeks pregnant with her second child when she suffered a miscarriage while living and working in a small village in India. On a rainy night, Phillips had to be carried on a stretcher to the nearest health clinic, located three hours away, only to find that the doctor was asleep, the medical instruments were not sterilized, and no one took her vital signs.
Thankfully, her husband—who is a medic—was on hand to provide assistance and save her life, but the ordeal struck a nerve with the now certified midwife. She experienced first-hand just how difficult pregnancy can be for so many women in poor, isolated communities, and so she started the Dayako Sagar Maternal Health Program with her husband to guarantee a woman's access to a healthy birth.
In many remote Indian villages, the local infrastructure makes rapid healthcare difficult. Most women lack education and support, are dependent on men for important decisions, and are afraid to give birth at local hospitals due to the horrible conditions. Mothers are subjected to soiled beds, beatings from nurses during labor, sewage-infested bathrooms, and are sent home without post-natal education. Even worse, mothers who decide to avoid these conditions and give birth at home often die due to unsanitary tools or improper training and care.
As co-founder of Empowering Communities to Transcend Adversity (ECTA), Amanda Phillips designed the Dayako Sagar Maternal Health Program as a comprehensive initiative that gives all mothers proper pre- and post-natal care. The ECTA trains a group of Village Health Workers (VHW), who make monthly home visits to expecting mothers, offering regular checkups and information on nutrition, hygiene, and potential warning signs during pregnancy.
In the eighth month, each mother receives a home birthing kit that includes a receiving blanket, clothes for the newborn, sterile cord clamps and a sterile razor, soap, medication to stop possible hemorrhages, and an instruction sheet—both illustrated and written in Nepali—to guide mothers through the process. This hygienic birthing kit is available for women who choose to deliver at home, do not require the assistance of a VHW, or cannot make it to a health facility in time.
VHW's are trained to properly manage the birthing process with hygienic materials and a compassionate approach. They are available to assist women during emergencies, and also offer after birth visits to monitor the health of mother and baby, and to identify any possible infections.
Thanks to the work of the Dayako Sagar Maternal Health Program, a community-run initiative has been established around the needs of women and children. There are currently 20 trained Village Health Workers who have been given valuable health and business training to maintain their own micro-enterprises for assisted births.
Women in the community are being empowered to make their own decisions about their health, and the village has witnessed a decrease in maternal and infant mortalities thanks to follow-up care and sanitation. VHW's and ECTA staff have successfully assisted hundreds of pregnancies, and even more have been assisted through the at-home birthing kits. The Dayako Sagar Maternal Health Program is thriving in just one village in India, and hopes to spread its message and progress to other communities in need.
Amanda Phillips' maternal health initiative is one of many fascinating projects submitted in the Healthy Mothers, Strong World Young Champions competition. Read and comment on other projects submitted to this competition at www.changemakers.com/maternalhealth.