Delivering babies in the mountains of Nepal
Words by Pete Yao (Chief Impact Officer, Thankyou).
Photography by Jessie Brinkman Evans.
One of the best parts of my job is teaming up with people who are passionate about changing the lives of some of the most vulnerable communities in the world. Surya from One Heart World-Wide (OHW) is one of these people.
One Heart World-Wide works alongside rural communities in Nepal. Sadly, for most of the people of Nepal’s remote communities, having a baby was a matter of life and death. Due to a lack of access to healthcare, a mother in Nepal is 43 times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than in Australia. A Nepalese child is nine times more likely to die before their fifth birthday.
Our team was privileged enough to be hosted by Surya and the One Heart Team to see the lifesaving work our baby range is helping to fund.
One of the first things you notice as you land into Nepal are the stunning mountains. While they are beautiful, they’re also a big part of why access to healthcare is so bad. We definitely got a sense of this during our two-day journey, driving across sheer cliff faces from Kathmandu to the remote community of Jaljala.
Before One Heart began their work in Jaljala, pregnant women only had two choices: to make the perilous trek to a hospital and risk having their baby on the side of the road, or to give birth at home. This usually meant giving birth in a shed or outhouse in their village with no electricity or medical care.
One Heart has a unique and holistic model called the ‘Network of Safety’, which is designed to tackle maternal and child issues on every level. In order for any health program to be sustainable, there has to be a strong partnership with the government. One Heart alongside the local health authorities, work together to strengthen health systems and policies. This means upgrading existing birth centres to make them safer, or even building new centres in rural communities.
The birthing centres provide both a safe and hygienic place for women to have their babies, and access to antenatal and postnatal care for both the mother and baby.
The real heroes of the model are the midwives and female community health volunteers working from these health facilities. They provide primary healthcare to these communities to ensure they receive regular check-ups, while combatting harmful cultural practices such as child marriages, home deliveries, or negative perceptions on breastfeeding.
One Heart’s results have been incredible. In some of the most rural regions, there were zero maternal deaths in 2015, while in another there was a 97% reduction in maternal deaths.
They are literally saving lives.
Seeing these staggering results, the government of Nepal has entrusted One Heart to reach another 35 remote districts in Nepal, which Thankyou baby will proudly be helping to fund.
We had the chance to sit down with Surya to hear his inspiring personal story. You can watch it here:
The unimaginable hardship, loss and pain Surya’s mother experienced in pregnancy is tragically all too common in Nepal and other low-income countries.
And while hearing stories of tragedy can get overwhelming, I am reminded that there are people who are working passionately to make these stories the last of their kind in this generation. People like Surya, who has decided to dedicate his life so no mother has to suffer like his mother did in childbirth.
Surya’s story, like many of our other impact partners and the communities we serve remind me of a quote by Nelson Mandela:
“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other — not in pity or patronisingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”
I am incredibly hopeful as we continue to partner with organisations and communities that, together, we can change lives both now and into the future.
Every nappy and bottle from our Thankyou baby range helps get child and maternal health programs to families in need.
Thank you to every one of you for making this possible through purchasing Chapter One. Head to thankyou.co/baby to see the range.