Resham Rajkumar from Mundet village in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, was pregnant for the fourth time. She learned only well into her third trimester through an ultrasound scan that she was carrying twins, and feared the worst since she was not at all prepared for it. On the home front, a weak financial situation meant that she would, in all likelihood, only be able to have a home delivery or at the most, the least expensive institutional delivery. The twins were born a month premature. Weighing under a kilogram each, Resham was fast losing hope of their survival. “I was seized with anxiety and nervousness when they were born”, she says.
When AIF’s Maternal and Newborn Survival Initiative (MANSI) team learned about the delivery of premature twin babies through Poonam Didi, the community health worker (ASHA worker) in the area, they rushed across a low-cost warm-box to provide warmth to the low birth-weight twins. So delighted was Resham that she named her daughter Mansi, and her son Manav. “The ASHA, Poonam Didi, taught me how to extract breast-milk and spoon-feed my babies with breast- milk. I was afraid they would not survive. Poonam Did also brought a warm-box, in which my babies get the right warmth and sleep. Mansi and Manav now weigh 2.5 kgs each.”, says Resham.
A significant low-cost innovation, MANSI’s warm-box provides steady warmth and light for babies born prematurely and in critical condition. MANSI is saving the lives of mothers and babies in remote areas of India though a set of low-cost essential interventions that prevent maternal and newborn deaths, from routine antenatal care (ANC) and clean delivery to exclusive breastfeeding. MANSI successfully delivers this through a public-private partnership model that is focused on the training and capacity building of ASHAs.
In remote and rural parts of Uttarakhand, access for emergency care in rural areas is a challenge. Long distances and poor road conditions make it difficult for villagers to travel to government health centers, thereby limiting their access to care. ASHA workers are part of a larger change occurring in India to improve maternal and newborn health. In many parts of India, Poonam and community health workers like her, are often the first and only link that women and children have to basic healthcare. MANSI is leading a determined effort to train and support thousands of ASHAs to catapult India’s healthcare agenda to success.