It was a day of celebration for the small tribal community at Chalamanna Nagar in Mulakalapalli mandal of Khammam district, Andhra Pradesh. A baby’s first birthday is reason to celebrate anywhere but the mother of the child – Karam Mangamma had particular reason to rejoice. Her baby girl was the first in her family and her village to be delivered in a health care facility, ever.
Her reticence was not surprising as traditionally, this community would deliver their babies at home in the presence of an elderly woman doubling up as the midwife. In fact, going to a doctor to treat an illness was not standard practice for the 33 families of the tribal community clustered on a small patch of land at Chalamanna Nagar. Though the primary health centre is not far off and even has a functioning ambulance, this small community is only now warming up to the services provided there.
The community has been settled here for the past six or seven years having been forcibly displaced from their homes and land in neighbouring Chhattisgarh following the conflict between the Indian State and the Maoists.
Save the Children and its local partner, Siri, has been working in 55 settlements of communities of people who have been displaced, in Khammam district since 2012. Siri’s staff explained to Mangamma about the potential threat to her unborn baby’s life and also the benefits of having trained people attend to the complicated delivery. Reluctantly, Mangamma agreed to being taken to the hospital.
One year on, the mother feels she took the right decision then to have her baby delivered at the primary health centre. “I am happy that I went to the hospital to have my baby,” she said. “The experience showed me that it is safer to have a baby delivered with people who are trained and can take care of you if something goes wrong.” Mangamma’s first child was delivered at home. Due to lack of information and proper understanding of child care, her first child, Ramana had undergone treatment for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
More and more women in her community are now voluntarily choosing to go to the PHC to deliver their babies. Save the Children has invested in counselling pregnant women and lactating mothers in the community on the benefits of institutional delivery, exclusive breastfeeding and routine immunisation. And the results are visible. Of 42 deliveries in the period April-November 2102, 32 were institutional deliveries. And all the babies were given the full dose of routine immunisation.
We are hopeful that these efforts will see many more children reach not just their first birthday but will go on to have a happy childhood!
Note: This article was originally publishedÂ here.Â