Right now, Bangladesh, like other countries, is battling its fight against COVID-19. The entire health system is heavily occupied in meeting the rising demands of health services for COVID-19 patients and continuing their emergency medical services. There is a decline in the demand of seeking healthcare services from general patients fearing contraction of the virus. The question remains, what would the expectant mothers do in such a scenario? Do they still go to healthcare centers for their checkups and deliveries?
In the beginning of this pandemic, the number of visiting mothers started reducing – mostly because they had no directions on what to do. Service providers were also not yet ready to prepare their facilities and themselves following the measures required to continue maternal and newborn care services; but they did not have time to pause. Midwives, paramedics, Family Welfare Visitors, nurses and doctors in the public facilities all around the country soon geared up to continue their services. Many came up with their own initiatives to encourage women and their families in visiting healthcare centers, while some went farther to make one-to-one calls for follow-up checkups. Some even engaged local elected members or government bodies to raise awareness on their open service centers and their safety measures taken.
In Lakshmipur, four such midwives are working in the Ramgonj Upazila Health Complex. One of them, Kazol Rani Paul, has been working here for 17 years. Starting her career as a nurse, she soon graduated as a certified midwife offering antenatal, normal delivery, postnatal, family planning and newborn care services. In her entire career, Kazol has never experienced a pandemic like COVID-19, where she equally feared for own life and that of her patients.
There were already COVID-19 positive patients identified in this upazila. Residents were panic stricken. Mobility restrictions and economic vulnerabilities became major concerns for them. Despite their families concerns for their lives, Kazol and three other midwives stayed back in their work station and continued their services. Very recently, Kazol even performed a complicated case of child delivery on a 19-year-old mother who did not want to come to the health center fearing virus contraction. When the mother entered and saw that sufficient health safety measures had been taken there, she gradually calmed down. Kazol maintained all of the protocols herself, as well, to ensure a safe journey to motherhood. She provided a mask for the mother and ensured hygienic passage to the delivery room and wash area. Kazol had her own protective gear on during the whole process, too. She was even able to help the baby receive skin-to-skin care from the mother and be breastfed within the crucial first hour of birth. The efficient handling of this patient gave confidence to more women to visit the healthcare center.
This Upazila Health Complex generally provides an average of 100 antenatal care, 30 deliveries and 40 postnatal care services per month. During this pandemic, these numbers went down almost by half in April. However, Kazol is hopeful, as these numbers gradually started increasing after raising much awareness in the area on their preparedness to tackle the COVID-19 situation. Midwives like Kazol know this is a high time that their roles become evident in saving lives. Fear of coronavirus is high and so is the number of preventable, maternal deaths in our country. As a frontline health professional, Kazol believes it is now her duty to fight these two together. Her counselling sessions now provide two-fold information on preventing coronavirus and ensuring a safe motherhood experience for all.
USAID’s MaMoni Maternal and Newborn Care Strengthening Project (MaMoni MNCSP) supports the government of Bangladesh to achieve its goal of reducing the maternal and newborn death rate in ten districts, where ensuring a safe journey to motherhood, availability of quality services and resources are of high concern. Some of the various interventions in MaMoni project areas include improving facility readiness and development of health workers skills through training and counselling.View External Link