Tamil Nadu: Institutional deliveries going up in Kalrayan hills
Illerajyoti, 45, has 10 villages under her in Tamil Nadu's Kalrayan Hills, 274km south of Chennai. She has an experience of 23 years in maternal and child health care and has spent all these years in and around Kalrayan hills. Rhythma Kaul reports.delhi Updated: May 14, 2013 21:55 IST
Illerajyoti, 45, has 10 villages under her in Tamil Nadu's Kalrayan Hills, 274km south of Chennai.
She has an experience of 23 years in maternal and child health care and has spent all these years in and around Kalrayan hills.
As a Village Health Nurse (VHN) with the Primary Health Centre (PHC) in the Serapattu area, her job is to visit the villages under her to track pregnant women and ensure they get the facilities provided to them by the state government.
Under the government's Pregnancy and Infant Cohort Monitoring and Evaluation (PICME) system, the village health nurses are given the task of tracking health information on pregnant women and infants, up till they are a year old.
"Our main job is to convince women to not give birth at home. Those who are anemic need to be put on iron and other nutritional supplements. All this requires one-on-one interaction with the villagers," said Illerajyoti.
Apart from tracking pregnant women and infants in the villages, her job is also to immunize infants.
Earlier, she would start her day on a Sunday, and spend 2-3 days visiting a single village. Her husband, who would carry a jhola that had some food and water for the journey, would accompany her. The terrain is such that walking at night is risky, and there is no mode of transport available within the remote villages.
"I could not go alone as it would get late by the time I got back. I had to stay overnight also in villages as there was no mode of transport available and we would cover most of the distance on foot," she said.
The couple would walk for around 10 miles at a stretch and would be able to cover only one village in a month. The nearest village would be reached after walking for 3 hours.
"There have been times when health officials from Delhi have wanted to survey the hills but gave up even before covering one-fourth of the area. Lack of proper transport is one of the biggest problems in gaining accessibility in this difficult terrain," she says.
However, since she has been provided a vehicle by Ford India, under its Sustainable Urban Mobility with Uncompromised Rural Reach (SUMURR) programme, it has become possible for her to cover 4-5 villages in a day. SUMURR programme is an initiative in partnership with Tamil Nadu government to improve the delivery of healthcare services to underserved mothers and children by improving the mobility and connectivity of village health nurses.
Also, she is no longer forced to stay over at night in villages she visits.
The project started in June, 2012, and since then 54 villages have been accessed that were previously inaccessible.
"There are still about 100 more villages to cover, but we are hopeful that things will get better," said Illerajyoti.
From no delivery in hospitals till about a decade ago, some of the villages have numbers as high as 40 in a month. Earlier, four out of 10 babies would die due to pregnancy-related complications, according to the healthcare workers. Now, the number has come down to more than 50%.
"The awareness is growing and institutional deliveries are catching up in the area. In case of an emergency call, we always give preference to interior villages," said Dr A Sathish Kumar, block medical officer.
"It is safe to deliver in a hospital rather than at home where there are no facilities in case the woman develops any complications during childbirth. Two of my friends in the village went to the nearby health centre to deliver last weak and both of them along with their children are doing fine," said Jaya Kodi, 23, a resident of Aeri Karai village, who gave birth to her second child in the health centre four months ago.