Delivering Results

How antenatal care reduced home births among Adivasi women

UNICEF, in association with local NGOs such as Saathi, introduced motorcycle ambulances for inaccessible regions in 2014. UNICEF India
30 June, 2020

On 6 April, Gandaye Potai, a 22-year-old pregnant woman from the village of Matla in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district, travelled seven kilometres to come to Benur’s early-referral centre—pre-birth waiting rooms. Her due date was four days later, but when the baby did not arrive, she stayed back at the ERC until delivery on 23 April. Pregnant women such as Gandaye have to take long journeys for healthcare facilities in remote tribal areas of the district, which has no proper means of transport or healthcare centres. A joint initiative led by UNICEF, in association with the NGO Saathi Samaj Sevi Sanstha and the district health administration, in the Narayanpur block of the district, has significantly improved the number of institutional deliveries in the region.

An Adivasi-dominated district, Narayanpur lacks basic amenities and services, such as education, healthcare and drinking water. According to Pramod Potai, an assistant programme coordinator of Saathi Samaj Sevi Sanstha, tribal women mostly prefer giving birth at home. “Even for those willing to come to hospitals, long distance and harsh topography act as deterrents,” he told me. “Thus, bringing pregnant women for institutional deliveries has proven to be difficult. In many places, even ambulances have failed to reach.”

Hulsi Kadiyaari, a counsellor at the Benur ERC, which was set up in 2016, said that she counsels pregnant women in the field and brings them here about ten to fifteen days prior to delivery. “Sometimes, if the delivery does not happen within fifteen days, women go back,” she said. “They keep in touch and when labour pain starts, they come again.”

UNICEF launched the ERC programme in 2012, Vishal Vasvani, an emergency officer with the agency, told me. ERCs were started in either hospitals, primary health centres or places nearer to them, to ensure women could comfortably stay for a few days before delivery. There are seven ERCs in Narayanpur block at present. In 2014, in association with local NGOs such as Saathi, it also introduced motorcycle ambulances for inaccessible regions.