Medical support, Pre- and Post-natal Education, Health-care Support
In February 2009, at 2 o'clock one morning, a young man stood at a hospital entrance begging doctors to care for his heavily pregnant wife. She was in labour, and the baby was breech. The staff told him point blank: unless he produced $15, they would do nothing for her.
Fifteen dollars was an impossible sum for him – at least ten days' work. He knew his wife and baby would die if he didn't find help fast. Desperate, he called CCF and quickly told them what was happening. Our staff sprang to action and raced to the hospital. They paid the $15 and baby SokLy was born safely by C-section. SokLy is now a thriving four-year-old in our Day Care Program – she's also the reason we started our Maternal Care Program (MCP).
That frightening incident propelled us to design a program that would reduce the maternal and infant mortality rates among mothers and babies living in the Steung Meanchey district. Through our now-flourishing MCP, we aim to meet the needs of the expectant mother from the moment she knows she's pregnant, through the baby's first year of life.
As with every aspect of our work, education is vital. We teach pregnant mothers basic hygiene, pre- and post-natal nutrition, the effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and the need for proper hydration. We also stress the benefits and teach the techniques of breastfeeding and the essentials of baby care. All MCP members are provided with five education modules that cover pre- and post-natal nutrition, hygiene, breast feeding and child development.
In the pre-natal phase, expectant mothers are given a health check and a care regime. In the first trimester, the program works on a simple premise; a healthy foetus requires a healthy mother. Good food is augmented by essential supplements and access to clean drinking water. Health care components include ultrasound, access to medical staff, confidential testing for blood-borne illnesses and, where applicable, instruction on reducing transmission risk to the baby.
The MCP must cope with the realities of daily life here, such as when a pregnant woman has to choose between attending essential education and training or earning enough money for food that day; between a health check and ultrasound or making money to pay the rent. So we provide transport to the training, rice to compensate for any lost wages and specialist assistance on topics ranging from uncooperative employers to high-risk domestic situations.
And when the big day arrives? Every member of the MCP carries a certified CCF Maternal Care Card giving her immediate admission to a quality local maternity clinic, with qualified doctors and high standards. In the event of complications, the patient is immediately referred to a nearby hospital. We cover the costs of transport and hospital fees.
Going home with a new baby can be a wonderful, but also daunting experience. Our "Welcome Home Baby" kit helps to ease the transition with some essentials and just a few little luxuries our mothers could never normally afford. The kit contains steriliser and hand soap, a washable plastic change mat, antibacterial soap to protect and clean any open sores and the baby's umbilical cord stump, a 20 litre container to transport purified water from the CCF Community Centre, 10 kilograms of rice, an "instruction manual" for baby care, talcum powder, clothes and baby suits, mittens and fun caps.
Importantly, our MCP team pays a weekly visit to all members, both before and after birth.