This years World Health Day highlights the need for better access to quality health care particularly for the people in the remote communities of Solomon Islands on the islands far from Honiara.
The country’s 187 nurse aid posts and 102 rural health clinics chronically lack essential equipment and medicine to save mothers and children’s lives, says international humanitarian organisation World Vision.
“It’s important that when pregnant women, mothers and children seek medical assistance from aid posts and clinics, they are able to get the help they need,” says Janes Ginting, Country Director of World Vision Solomon Islands.
About 80% of the population of Solomon Islands live in the rural areas and rely on rural health services. Mothers die during childbirth at alarmingly high rates and many children do not live to see their fifth birthday. The maternal mortality rate in Solomon Islands is 100 deaths per 100,000, compared with 1 in 4,700 in wealthy countries.
Edna Maiva is a young Solomon Islander mother from the Central Islands who survived childbirth despite not having a skill birth attendant or access to medical services.
The day Edna’s son was born, Edna was busy working copra and preparing for Christmas. She never sensed any signs of labor. That night, after eating her dinner, Edna felt some pains and initially thought it was just normal aches from a hard day’s work. However as her pain intensified she realised she was in labour. Her family went around the village looking for a boat to transport her to the nearest health centre, an hour long journey by 30 horsepower motorised boat, but there was no boat available that night.
Scared and without any choice, Edna had to seek assistance from women in her village to help deliver her baby. She hoped and prayed that everything would go well.
Edna says giving birth at the village, where there is no trained birth attendant, is very risky because anything can go wrong with the mother or baby. Distance and lack of transport to the nearest clinic is a huge challenge for Edna’s community and others like hers in the Solomon Islands.
“The mothers here don’t do much. Even when their children are sick, they don’t think of getting them to the clinic or health centre as it is far and expensive to hire a boat to travel there,” she said.
Thankfully, the baby was born safely and without complications. The following day both mother and baby were taken to the nearest health centre for a check-up and were found to be healthy and strong.
World Vision is working with communities to establish Village Health Volunteers who can assist pregnant women as they prepare to give birth safely and also educate them about maternal and child health issues.
“The Village Health Volunteers are trained by World Vision to provide health advice to families and also to encourage pregnant women to do antenatal check-ups and prepare for delivery as well as taking good care of their babies when they are born,” says Everlyn Darcy, World Vision Solomon Islands Health Coordinator.