Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Saving Mother's Lives in Rural Indonesia: Indonesia's Maternal Mortality Rate Is One of the Highest in South-East Asia. One East Java District Has Introduced a Novel Scheme to Reduce Those Deaths

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Saving Mother's Lives in Rural Indonesia: Indonesia's Maternal Mortality Rate Is One of the Highest in South-East Asia. One East Java District Has Introduced a Novel Scheme to Reduce Those Deaths

Article excerpt

In many rural areas of Indonesia, traditional ways of delivering babies remain popular. For example, in Ugaikagopa in the country's east, traditional healers take the pregnant woman to the middle of the forest to deliver the baby. They may use fibres taken from bamboo to cut the umbilical cord and wipe the newborns' bodies with guava leaves.

The instruments used are not sterile and can lead to infection. The traditional healer, or dukun in Indonesian language or Bahasa, may not be able to deal with complications during labour, and by the time the mother gets to a local clinic it may be too late.

As a result, maternal mortality in Indonesia is high compared to most south-east Asian countries. In 2005, there were an estimated 262 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births, compared with 39 per 100 000 in Malaysia and 6 per 100 000 in Singapore. Figures for Papua province from 2003 show even higher death rates: 396 per 100 000 live births.

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The chief cause of maternal death in Indonesia is bleeding, followed by eclampsia, infection, and the complications of abortion and prolonged labour. Most of these deaths occur with births handled by traditional birth attendants rather than by medically trained health-care professionals.

Many families prefer to use a dukun because of traditional beliefs and because it is a cheaper option than using a trained midwife or going to hospital. In addition, these traditional birth attendants do household chores while mothers recover.

A scheme in Ngawi district in East Java has been initiated to try to ensure that a midwife or other trained birth attendant assists deliveries. Since 2006, dukun are given incentives of up to IDR 100 000 (US$ 12) for referring pregnant women to skilled birth attendants or community-based midwives. Funding comes from the local government budget.

Mbah Dinah, 60, a traditional healer in Ngawi, said, "We escort the pregnant woman to the community health centre during daylight. At night, we escort them to the midwife's house."

Additionally, the dukun receive a small sum of money when they assist a midwife. They are responsible for taking care of the cord and for bathing the newborn--supervised by the midwife--during the first week. The patient makes the payment; the amount depends on the length and type of services provided.

This way, dukun do not feel threatened by the arrival of a skilled birth attendant or community-based midwife in their area, but are happy to cooperate. …

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