A few days ago I went on an unusual home visit... to the provincial women's prison to provide prenatal care.
Society often forgets women in prison, even if she is pregnant, which here in the Philippines means she may not get any medical check-ups during pregnancy, and may be subject to disrespectful treatment during labor and birth from overworked and underpaid staff at an overcrowded government hospital.
Mercy In Action is changing that here in Olongapo by reaching out to the local women's prison to give free maternity care, including prenatal exams, pregnancy vitamins, pre-natal testing for HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B, and medical treatment as needed. After the birth we go back to the prison to follow up with postpartum check-ups.
And when the woman goes into labor? Mercy In Action opens our gates wide to receive the prison wagon that pulls up and brings out the laboring woman in chains. The midwives lovingly greet her and take her inside, where all chains and handcuffs are removed, and she is treated with respect and dignity for the duration of her stay. Our center is the only place where a woman has unrestricted access to her newborn after birth, especially important for a mother who knows in a few days she has to let go. The female guards who accompany the mother often express their praise for this haven of rest and kindness, a kind of bubble for the mother and baby before reality intrudes again all too soon...
...For that is sad part of this story. Babies are not allowed to remain with their mothers once they go back to prison three days after the birth. Here again, Mercy In Action steps up to help arrange for the transfer of the newborn into safe care either with family or in a local baby home. And of course we offer comfort to the mother, who is often grieving to lose her baby in this way. Recently a woman told us "Mercy helped me during my worst time, I will not forget you".
What do you think? How can we help these women even more? We appreciate suggestions, comments and prayers from our donors. Please email us at email@example.com. Without you we would not be able to conduct all the outreach we are currently involved in through our birth center. We love helping pregnant women in prison, and we hope you loved hearing about this compassionate outreach.
This week Mercy In Action added value to numerous birth centers and midwives in the Olongapo area by hosting a training in two new global programs to improve maternity outcomes surrounding childbirth: Helping Babies Breathe, and Helping Mother's Survive.
Trainers from America came to teach alongside the Mercy In Action staff, and participants came from our local area and from other islands in the Philippines.
The training was simple to understand, and was undergirded by practice sessions with dolls and birth simulators.
While the training was going on, babies were being born in our birth center, and women were coming to be seen for prenatal check ups. I love that all the midwives of Mercy In Action are so committed to excellence that they willingly attend every training we sponsor, and then immediately put that new evidence-based learning into practice.
One of the participants said "This course really gave me confidence that I could save the life of a baby born not breathing, and I can save a woman from dying if she bleeds too much after giving birth".
We were all tired but very happy when the training ended after 10 days, sure that we now have even more skills and knowledge to save the lives and guard the health and well-being of Mothers and Babies in our care.
This past year, Mercy In Action midwives were called up to step up above and beyond the normal call of duty, when we divided our attentions between our permanent Birth Center in Olongapo, on Luzon Island, and our disaster response tents on Leyte Island. This was in response to the largest storm the world has ever seen-Super Typhoon Haiyan, known as Yolanda here in the Philippines.
Because of monitary gifts from UCLA students to Global Giving, Mercy In Action was able to mount a disaster response to help the survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. From last November through Feb 1 of this year, we set up tents to provide both maternity care and emergency medical care for the victums of that horrific natural disaster.
Jen Bunquin, a Registered Midwife, was one of the Mercy In Action midwives who lived in tents for six weeks to deliver babies at ground zero of that disaster zone. “There were lots of complications (for the mothers),” Bunquin, said. “You can feel the trauma in their hearts. They were scared.”
Here is a breakdown of the medical and maternity care Mercy In Action staff provided during the disaster response:
Total Documented Medical Encounters: 3,616 patients in 65 days!
- Total Deliveries: 116- Total Primary Health and Wound Care: 1,532- Total Breastfeeding women fed in ongoing feeding program: 648- Total pregnant women examined and fed in ongoing prenatal care: 367
Equally important were the midwives we left at home, In Olongapo. Cecille Manaois was one of th Registered Midwives who stayed behind. "Someone needs to hold things together here", Manaois said.
Three reporters for the UCLA Bruins Newspaper in California came to the Philippines to interview us and report on how that Global Giving money was spent. They wrote a wonderful set of six stories, two of which featured the work of Mercy In Action and the midwives we work with. Please open the link in this report and read the news stories they published.
Blessings and thanks for all our donors do to keep our permanent and our disaster response teams functioning at top levels to give the best maternity care anywhere in the Philippines!
The Philippines is no stranger to strong winds and rain. Last November brought the largest Typhoon to ever hit landfall and Mercy In Action responded to the disaster with emergency medical and maternity tents to provide care in the areas hardest hit. Although we have not experienced a typhoon of that magnitude since, we still continue to experience typhoons and storms that are strong enough to wash away roads and homes. This poses a particularly dangerous situation for childbearing women who are most vulnerable if they go into labor during the peak of a storm. Therefore, it is no surprise that our clinic has been unusually busy this last week as Typhoon Henry (Matmo) approached, uprooting trees and flooding roads. Many expectant mothers came to our clinic seeking refuge before either their labor or the storm became too intense. And because our clinic stands, with a strong foundation and many beds, those women were able to receive kind and capable care while the rains came down outside.
It is because of the kind donations of strangers that our clinic is able to be that safe place in the storm. Mercy In Action and the families we serve thank you for your support
The Philippines is among the top 10 countries in the world where there is great inequality in newborn deaths between the richest and poorest populations, according to Save the Children’s study entitled, Ending Newborn Deaths: Ensuring Every Baby Survives, which was launched in Manila on Friday, April 11.
“Less than 30 per cent of the babies in the poorest sector of the Philippines are delivered by a skilled birth attendant, compared to nearly 100 per cent in the richest economic bracket.” said Ned Olney, Philippine Director of Save the Children. They are asking all of us in the Philippines to give every newborn a promise of survival, which includes ensuring that every birth is attended by trained and equipped health workers, and removing user fees for all maternal, newborn and child health services, including emergency obstetric care; and
Mercy In Action is proud to say that we have highly trained midwives on staff and we have removed all barriers to care for the poorest members of society by having no user fees in our Birth Center for any of our maternity care services, including labor and delivery, prenatal check-ups, baby check-ups, and home visits after the birth. Even when life-saving drugs are needed, they are provided free of charge to the patient, thanks to the generosity of you, our donors!
Just last week, a baby was born not breathing, who needing immediate resuscitation at birth, but thanks to the skilled care he received at Mercy In Action, he was breathing and in his mother's arms within a few minutes after birth. "Salamat Po", said the mother,over and over again, which means "Thank you" in Tagalog. "O walang anuman", said the midwives, smiling down at the happy mother and nursing baby. "It was no trouble at all".
Skilled midwives, with good emergency training, giving services at no charge to the mother, with kindness. These are the factors that make a life-saving difference. This is the opportunity Mercy In Action has here in the Philippines during this time of crisis for our newborns.
While there is a crisis in our country, we see the opportunity to be a model of what is possible, providing excellence in midwifery care for all women, regardless of income. Thank you for helping us make such a difference here in the Philippines.
Were you aware that your donation could make such a difference?
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