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Bridging gaps in pregnancy care through community outreach

19-year-old mother of two from Bangladesh tells her story

Navigating life in the coastal village of Steamer Ghat, South Amjakhali in Cox’s Bazar brings its own set of challenges, especially for 19-year-old Afroza Sultana Koli and her husband Habibullah. It is a region where the sea often wreaks havoc, frequently destroying homes and leaving families in desperate situations.

Finding hope through a Community Health Worker

One day in December, Koli noticed her period had ceased for two months, a worrisome situation given her circumstances. Unable to afford a pregnancy test, she spent her days in anxious anticipation. It was during this time that a Community Health Worker visited her home, introducing her to the healthcare services provided by the health facility, run by Gonoshasthaya Kendra (GK) in partnership with Malteser International. Feeling encouraged, Koli reached out to our health facility, the Amjakhali Community Clinic, for assistance. There, she built rapport with the clinic's midwife, who informed her about the array of services available: antenatal care, hemoglobin tests, urine tests, pregnancy tests, iron calcium supplements, vitamins, and post-natal care – all completely free of charge. Koli attended six check-ups during her pregnancy. 

When her labor began, she contacted the midwife and was immediately referred to Kutubdia Upazila Health Complex. Unfortunately, Koli’s husband was out at sea, and her mother-in-law was hesitant about taking her to the hospital. After the midwife explained the advantages of hospital delivery, her mother-in-law finally agreed. That night, Koli was overjoyed as she welcomed her second child. Both mother and child were healthy and able to return home the following day. In subsequent postnatal checkups, Koli expressed her gratitude for the excellent care received during her second delivery.

Afroza Sultana Koli: “I could not take any check-ups during the previous pregnancy.”

Recalling her first pregnancy, she shared the hardships faced without proper medical attention, nutritious food, or financial resources. “I was 17 years old when my first delivery took place. I got pregnant within two months of marriage,” she said. “I could not take any check-ups during the previous pregnancy, could not eat any iron or calcium, let alone eat nutritious food or even proper meals. Moreover, due to the obstacles and lack of money, there was no doctor for me and no available services. The first baby was delivered at my home by the village midwife. I was in pain for two days, but no one took me to the hospital. After two days my baby was delivered but the baby did not cry. It took many days running from hospital to hospital. I also got a tear, but didn’t get any stitches. I had to suffer for a long time. But thank God, I got very good service during the second delivery, I didn't have to suffer much.” 

“We are very thankful to Malteser International for providing such good service free of charge.”

Koli's mother-in-law echoes her sentiments. “We are very thankful to Malteser International for providing such good service free of charge,” she says. Motherhood should be a joyful journey. Together with our partner GK, we continue to provide essential care and assistance to women like Koli, supporting them every step of the way.

(November 2023)

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