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Motorbike ambulances help women survive childbirth in rural India

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Motorbike ambulances help women survive childbirth in rural India

 

  • Service operates in remote forest areas of Chhattisgarh
  • Since 2014, more than 21,000 pregnant women in region have benefited from motorbike service

NEW DELHI: When Mungli Korram was giving birth in October, an ambulance sidecar took her to the nearest health center along near-impassable forest paths in Narayanpur.

The remote district of Chhattisgarh, a tribal state in central India, is a heavily forested area, where many villages are miles away from roads suitable for vehicle access.

The state has one of the highest maternal mortality rates, around 1.5 times the national average, with 137 pregnancy-related deaths for mothers per 100,000 births.

The death rate has, however, significantly decreased in the past few years, partly due to the motorbike ambulance service which helped Korram safely deliver her child.

“For women like us the bike ambulance has come as a savior,” she told Arab News.

“The ambulance is saving many lives of women in rural areas who were earlier deprived of such facilities.”

The sidecar hospital beds covered with a white canopy were introduced to the area eight years ago by Bhupesh Tiwari, the founder of Saathi, a developmental non-governmental organization working with rural communities.

“The problems women faced moved me and keeping in mind their problems I designed this ambulance, and I am happy that in the last eight years we have made substantial differences in the lives of women in these inaccessible areas,” Tiwari said.

“In 2014, when I started the motorbike ambulance, the situation was acute in remote villages with many women losing their lives during childbirth as they did not have access to any hospital.”

In 2014, the maternal mortality rate in the region was 159 per 100,000 births.

The initiative was initially supported by the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund until local authorities stepped in when the project’s tenure ended.

Today, the NGO operates 17 motorbike ambulances in the least accessible forest districts, covering 368 tribal villages with a population of around 100,000.

Saathi records show that since 2014 its team has attended to more than 21,000 pregnant women in the areas.

Pramod Potoi, a local community member who has been working with Saathi since the beginning of the project, noted that its presence had encouraged more women to seek professional medical help.

“In 2014, when the ambulance started, there were only a few women going to the nearest clinic. Now almost 90 percent of women prefer to do so,” he said.

“Health workers reach out to these villages and monitor the pregnancy of women in villages … We are saving the lives of many women and infants through the ambulance service.”

 

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