Sidecar ambulances help moms give birth in India

Narayanpur, India (AP) — A motorcycle roared as it tried to carry an ambulance sidecar down a steep riverbank. hospital bed, under a white canvas canopy) turned dangerously. As he walked along, two medical workers tried to push it, but it did not move.

In the end, the three gave up and settled on digging a new road.

After 40 minutes of digging and a push to lift the vehicle from the river bed onto the dirt road, the team set off again. A bicycle ambulance resumed her nine-mile trek across the forest, known as Abu Jimal, or ‘Unknown Hills’, to Phagni Poyam, 23, nine months pregnant in the isolated village of Kodri. Arrived.

Poyam was waiting next to a sleeping one-year-old boy, Diresh, when the team arrived. Like many of Kolodi’s babies, Diresh was not born in a hospital. This is due both to remoteness and mistrust of the authorities. But Poyam said she had seen women and their babies die in childbirth in recent years and she didn’t want to risk it.

“My baby will be safer,” she said in Gondi. Gondi is spoken by an estimated 13 million members of the indigenous Gondo community.

A motorbike ambulance assists a mother in delivery in the Naryanpur district of Chhattisgarh, central India. The forested district is one of India’s least densely populated districts, with approximately 139,820 inhabitants spread over an area larger than the state of Delaware. Many of the local villages, like Kodri, are more than 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the motorway. The state has one of the highest pregnancy-related maternal mortality rates in India, about 1.5 times the national average, with 137 maternal pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births. .

Authorities and health workers agree that bicycle ambulances don’t offer a long-term solution, but they make a difference.

The state’s health system is struggling to reach remote villages. Kodri residents typically walk 20 kilometers (12 miles) to the nearest market town, Orchha. It takes about two and a half hours. Lack of roads often forces villagers to use makeshift palanquins to transport the seriously ill.

The government has worked to build a road network, but road construction is often targeted by armed groups that have been active in the region for 40 years. The rebels say their fight is for the rights of the indigenous community that makes up his 80% of Chhattisgarh’s population.

Bicycle ambulances were first deployed in Narayanpur in 2014. Currently, there are 13 of his bicycle ambulances in operation in his three districts of Chhattisgarh, run by the local government and a non-profit organization called Saathi, which is supported by UNICEF. The idea stemmed from a similar project in Ghana, says Saathi’s Bhupesh Tiwari. Ambulances are focused on transporting the mother to the hospital, but are also being called in to transport snakebite victims and other emergencies.

Since 2014, the number of babies born in hospitals in Narayanpur District has doubled from 76 in 2014 to an average of about 162 per year. The bicycle ambulance helped about 3,000 mothers and their babies scattered across her 99 villages in Narayanpur. area.

Once Poyam and his son were safely on board, the motorcycle ambulance retraced its route back to Orchha and took Poyam to an early referral center near the hospital. There, pregnant women can remain under surveillance and receive medical attention. Mother and son had to get off several times as the motorbike ambulance navigated through tricky slopes and rocky riverbeds. 24-year-old driver Sukhram Vadde sometimes had to lift large stones that could get stuck under the carriage.

It was dark by the time we reached Orchha. The health worker in charge of the center, Lata Netam, had called ahead of time when leaving Poyam village to make sure dinner was ready. While his 1-year-old Dilesh purrs happily playing with the others who work there, Netam answered questions from his Poyam. Do you need documents? Can her husband come see me? “

“We’re from here. We know these villages. We want them to feel like their mothers haven’t left home,” she said.

Confidence in hospitals and modern medicine is growing. In the village there is a mother who talks passionately about the hospital. Orccha’s weekly market attracts hundreds of people from far-flung villages to buy basic things and take part in fierce cockfighting competitions. Government health workers are busy screening for diseases like diabetes and malaria.

A blood test revealed Poyam’s iron levels were dangerously low. This can lead to complications such as excessive bleeding during her delivery, so her doctor prescribed supplements to help her.

Diresh also tested positive for malaria. He was immediately hospitalized and treated for a virus that kills thousands of children each year.

Diresh then returns to his village to live with his father. Thanks to regular diet and supplements, Poyam’s iron levels increased and he gained 9 pounds.

“We expect her to give birth anytime,” said Netham, a health worker.


The Associated Press’ Health Sciences Division is supported by the Scientific and Educational Media Group at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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