Learning new practices in Pakistan

Topics: Asia, Community Health
January 29, 2015

 Learning new practices in Pakistan

Every year, 200,000 newborns die in Pakistan in the first month of being born and less than half of women have a skilled health worker present while giving birth.  

However, if you brave the narrow road on the mountains of Battagram district, located in the North of Pakistan, you will find the quiet village of Garhi Nawab Said. There, a miracle is happening -  mothers and newborns are surviving.

The joint Integrated Recovery Program of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, supported by the Canadian Red Cross, has reached thousands of vulnerable individuals with lifesaving information and support. By partnering with government, local groups, and health workers and volunteers, Red Cross Maternal, Newborn and Child Health programming is providing communities in Pakistan with the ability to save lives through increasing the use of safe practices for pregnancy and infant care.

Naz, a mother from Garhi Nawab Said, is one of the women who has benefitted from this program.

“The mother-in-law makes the decisions in the house along with male elders of the family”, says Naz  shyly as she peers out from a black cloth pulled over her face. Like most Pakistani women, Naz moved in with her husband’s family when she married. The decisions of her mother-in-law, Sultana, include where Naz will give birth and how she’ll care for her baby.

Women like Sultana are often midwives to their grandchildren, using practices they learned from their own mother-in-laws. However, they’re unaware that many of their practices contribute to high infant and maternal death rates in Pakistan.

The Red Cross Integrated Recovery Program engages all members of a family to ensure changing centuries of traditions are understood and implemented. Women’s committee meetings are organized and include information on how to make sure mothers and newborns survive childbirth and the critical days that follow.  

Naz and Sultana attended a women’s committee meeting, where they both learned the importance of giving birth in the government hospital. For Naz, Sultana’s support has been critical. 

“If she comes to the meetings and learns the good practices, she will follow them. And then my husband won’t resist doing the birth preparations or going to the hospital,” said Naz.

With the help of the Red Cross, Naz and Sultana can pass on the proper birthing practices to their future generations.

“I’ve learned how to take care of the mother and child,” Sultana says. “Now I’m not so worried about my daughters-in-law or my grandchildren.”