This is the first post in our Beyond 5 Summer Blockbuster series. Meet real-life superhero Ahmad, who advocates to bring maternal health services to his community in Pakistan, where one in every 89 women will die due to causes related to childbirth.
By Asif Raza
Fifteen years ago, Ahmad’s Aunt faced severe complications during her third child’s birth. A traditional birth attendant tried to save her life, as well as the life of her baby. They failed on both accounts. While burying his aunt, with a lot of sorrow, he promised her soul to work for the betterment of maternal health. For more than a decade, his efforts were fruitless. Finally, last year, he began to see the results of his hard work.
Since his childhood, Ahmad has struggled to get ahead and bring change to his community. He is one of the few individuals in his village with more than primary education. After finishing high school, he decided to adopt a medical profession. Due to lack of financial resources to study at the university, he joined a paramedic school. Although he was educated, his training was hard to put into practice with a shortage of jobs in his community. When he wasn’t able to work in his field, he opted to work on his land as a means of supporting himself and his family. However, he never forgot about his aunt and the promise he had made to himself and her soul. “After the death of my aunt, it was my dream to work for my community, so that no more casualties occur due to complications during delivery. But, unfortunately, there was no such forum at our village.”
In Ahmad’s community, World Vision started a Maternal Newborn & Child Health (MNCH) project to raise the awareness of the local community about child and maternal health issues, focusing especially on pre and postnatal care, safe deliveries, birth spacing, danger signs in pregnancy, as well as infant and childhood diseases.
The MNCH staff organized a training session on Citizen Voice and Action, World Vision’s program to mobilize people in communities to increase government accountability. Ahmad was among the participants and learned how to do advocacy at the local level.
Ahmad organized 25 community members to attend a meeting with the District Health Officer asking the government to establish a labor and delivery room at the Dewala basic health unit. The district health officer initially denied the request due to lack of budget for staff. After a few days, another meeting was held with government staff and the local people, again requesting a labor room. This time they showed data about their village and explained why the labor room is necessary.
After multiple meetings,health officials agreed. Ahmad says, “When government officials announced good news of the labor room at the basic health unit, tears of happiness came in my eyes. My dream of safe deliveries at [a] hospital came true.”
To date, the government has provided basic equipment, including delivery kits, surgical instruments at a Labor and delivery room at the Dewala basic health unit which is properly functional. “I appreciate World Vision’s efforts to help vulnerable families of this village,” says Dr. Younis, who has been working as a Medical Officer at the basic health unit since 2011. “Now people are aware about their rights and they know the importance of safe delivery as well as pre and postnatal checkups.”
Currently, between 20 and 25 babies are delivered each month. Additionally, 80 women are seen for prenatal checkups. Due to proper treatment and awareness, more than 1,000 patients have been registered. Basic medicines are also available. Most important to mention, however, is that people are coming in for consultation about birth spacing.