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Maternal Health in Indonesia Looks to the Future

Mothers in developing countries often face the devastating reality of poor maternal health care due to a lack of resources. According to UNICEF, “A woman dies from complications of childbirth every minute – about 529,000 each year – the vast majority of them in developing countries.”  

When children are born unhealthy, it is painful for the parents and taxes their resources. Healthy mothers and healthy children lead to happier, more stable families.

CCF’sMaternal and Child Health program was implemented in one of the poorest and least developed areas of Indonesia. The initiative, supported by the Sky Siegfried Fund, reaches families in the Manggarai District, located on the eastern island of Flores. Many of the affected families live in isolated communities, with little access to health care. 

Mothers in the Manggarai District often give birth at home, assisted by unskilled local birth attendants. This puts them at greater risk of infant or maternal death. The high maternal death rate is attributed to infection, high blood pressure that is left untreated and obstructed labor, among others. CCF is improving deliveries by training 40 birth attendants.  (Another 200 will be trained.) CCF promotes the use of tetanus toxoid shots to the pregnant women to prevent infection during delivery.

The program has been successful.  Mothers have increased their pre- and postnatal care visits and learned about proper weight gain and taking vitamin supplements. Through home visits by community health volunteers known as "cadres,” mothers are learning how to raise healthy children. CCF recently trained 214 new cadres, including a number of men – a first in these traditional communities.  

Childhood malnutrition presents another challenge in these Indonesian communities. Poverty, lack of proper nutrition and limited access to foods are the primary causes. The cadres also were trained in balanced nutrition. And malnourished children are monitored through monthly weigh-ins, where they receive supplemental food, deworming medications and vitamin A supplements.

As part of this effort, 1,029 youth have been educated in reproductive health and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.  According to Russ Vogel, national director of CCF Indonesia, the youth “received information they could not get from their parents or their schools because of cultural taboos.”

These programs are designed to have a long-term impact, especially when working with local clinics to improve facilities.