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In an event that is still all too common in rural Nepal, a young mother of three and only 25 years old, suffered complications from her pregnancy. After giving birth at home, she experienced a retained placenta and uncontrolled bleeding. By the time she reached our hospital, she was weak, barely conscious and within minutes had stopped breathing. Our staff administered CPR, but unfortunately she died later that day.
In another village, during a postnatal care visit, a Community Health Worker (CHW) had checked up on a 19 day old baby boy and noticed he was dehydrated and failing to gain weight. She urged the mother to take him to our hospital but she had other responsibilities that prevented her from making the journey. After returning for a checkup a few days later and noticing no improvement, the CHW convinced the mother to make the journey to our hospital. He was admitted and received fluids and formula. He thrived from our treatment and was discharged a few days later.
These two accounts highlight one patient who was treated by us in time, and one who was not. Preventable illnesses continue to challenge populations in rural Nepal, however communities that are serviced by CHWs show a much lower mortality rate from easily treatable diseases. CHWs have helped to reduce child mortality, promote safe motherhood, give preventative medicine, provide sexually transmitted disease counseling and observe therapy for tuberculosis but due to a scarcity of resources preventable illnesses are still sometimes fatal.
Nestled high in the mountains, a short drive and a two and a half mile trek from our hospital, a village called Hattikot is serviced by CHW Prabitra. She is a young, bright lady who dresses in the traditional blue sari to represent her commitment to the community – her community. She regularly delivers counseling for pregnant women in the ward, asking and answering questions and checking that her patients receive formal antenatal care. She does this for all the pregnant women in her area, hiking up and around these parts all day, every day.
Though the mountain regions of Nepal are breathtakingly beautiful, the same terrain is a significant barrier for quality healthcare. CHWs are the frontline of our healthcare model and often the first point of contact for our patients. If more resources are dedicated to women like Prabitra, children like the 19 day old baby will continue to thrive, and less mothers will be lost.
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