It’s miles to go for a safer childbirth in Odisha’s Kalahandi -Satyasundar Barik

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published Published on Sep 19, 2020   modified Modified on Sep 20, 2020

-The Hindu

Women brave arduous journeys to reach hospitals.

BHUBANESWAR: After walking down two hills, taking a boat across a huge reservoir and then finally travelling 30 km on bumpy country roads in a rickety autorickshaw, the actual process of giving birth was not difficult at all for 35-year-old Kusum Nayak.

The labour pains pale into insignificance for the pregnant women of 16 largely tribal villages under the N. Podapadar panchayat in Odisha’s Kalahandi district as they prepare to reach the nearest hospital 35 kms away.

‘Additional pain’

“Labour and giving birth is one of the most exhilarating events in one’s life. However, we undergo an additional pain thanks to the lack of connectivity. The pain is worth taking if the baby is born healthy,” said Ms. Nayak, who gave birth to a baby girl at the Tentulikhunti Community Health Centre in Nabarangpur district.

Three men and four elderly women from Ghutrukhal village escorted Ms. Nayak on July 13 on the walk down the hill road, the boat ride over the 4 km-wide Indravati reservoir and the last leg in an autorickshaw to the hospital.

Earlier on May 24, Chanchala Majhi from the nearby Bhitardunga village embarked upon a similar journey to the hospital.

“Lack of connectivity to the mainland is a curse for us. We cannot access emergency health services like child delivery as no ambulance can reach our village,” said Ms. Majhi, who gave birth to a boy.

The ordeal of the new mothers does not end with childbirth as they face the punishing return journeys home with their fragile newborns.

However, despite the immense challenges, an increasing number of women have been opting for an institutional delivery.

Of the 40 deliveries reported from the water-locked 16 villages in 2019-20, 13 were recorded from the hospital. Further, a majority of women who had delivered their babies at home, came to the hospital for antenatal care.

Encouraging health workers

The deployment of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and Auxiliary Nursing Midwives (ANMs) in the 16 villages proved to be the turning point. The health workers persuaded the women to opt for institutional deliveries. Moreover, a conditional transfer of 5,000 as maternity benefit under the ‘Mamata Scheme’, referral transport assistance and an additional 1,000 in transport costs for women in inaccessible areas have also encouraged them to approach hospitals.

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The Hindu, 19 September, 2020,

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