UNFPA Success Story: Improved reproductive health contributes to safe deliveries in island communities
Athifa Adam recalls the birth of her third child, at home in 1999, with a shudder.”At the time, the hospital had not yet been built, and we had a health centre with no doctor,” says the 32-year-old resident of Gdh. Thinadhoo, whose first two children were delivered in Male’.
“It was a very complicated delivery. I was in labour for three hours even after the head of the baby had been spotted.I only had the traditional birth attendant to attend to me. However, when I became too tired and the baby refused to come out, my husband called the family health worker, who came immediately.I was very weak during the delivery and very scared. I had not experienced any complications during the deliveries of my first two children and therefore was not worried about this one. I had also attended the antenatal care clinic at the Health Centre throughout my pregnancy, and no alarming signs or symptoms had been detected.We had not been told by anyone not to give birth at home. However, during this delivery my husband was also very worried and upset, and after that, we said, ‘No more home deliveries.’ Thankfully, the baby was fine and I recovered well.”
Athifa was fortunate, in more ways than one. Not only did she did not become one of the eight Maldivian women who die each year from complications of pregnancy, but the Regional Hospital in Thinadhoo has since benefited from the provision of a gynaecologist through UNFPA’s Reproductive Health Services project.UNFPA-supported projects, implemented through the Ministry of Health, have aimed at improving the use of comprehensive reproductive health services, particularly at the primary health care level, and strengthening national capability in reproductive health technical and managerial areas over the past nine years.
UNFPA support has been critical in establishing infrastructure, upgrading skills of service providers and strengthening reproductive health and family planning services nationwide. For Athifa, it made all the difference.
“For my last pregnancy (2002), I once again delivered here in Thinadhoo, but only because a gynaecologist was working here and was therefore able to attend to the delivery,” she says. “I did not have any labour pains well after my due date set by the doctor, and therefore labour had to be induced. But I experienced no problems during the actual delivery.”The doctor was good to his clients, and I felt very comfortable with him. If there had not been a gynaecologist in the island, I would have had to go to Male’ for the delivery. This would have been more costly, and I would also have had to leave my other children here in the island without my husband and I.”But with the doctor here,” she notes happily, “I was able to give birth with my children and my mother all nearby.”