Sara in the Land of Dengue

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Casa Maternas

As part of a national plan to decrease the number of women who die as a result of pregnancy related causes and complications during delivery (maternal mortalities) Nicaragua has created a network of Casa Maternas. A Casa Materna is a place where women living in rural communities and who are at risk of having a complication during the delivery are able to go and stay for 2 weeks before the due date. The Casa Maternas are located close to hospitals so that when a woman goes into labor she will be able to deliver in the hospital. This makes a great difference in the likelihood of a fatality as a result of a complication with the delivery. If it were not for the Casa Maternas, these women would begin the labor at their house, realize the complication and then start a sometimes 2 day journey to reach a place to receive care. Needless to say, this is generally a dangerous and perhaps fatal trip for the women.
The benefit of the Casa Maternas extends even beyond the life-saving services because it brings together a group of women and provides some of them, for the first time ever a chance to relax, not take care of husbands, other children etc. and form bonds with the other women around them. This is an excellent opportunity to provide women with education as well. Because there are not chores that take up the entire day the women have time to do other things. It is an ideal time to provide education about child health and development, nutrition, basic health care, family planning, domestic violence…basically anything and everything. However, these educational curriculums need to be developed, supplies attained and there needs to be a staff person to lead these sessions. This is where the difference becomes apparent. The Casa Materna in Mulukuku is still under construction but is bursting at the seems with supplies and donations from the church group in Texas. They donated not only new baby kits (which include cloths, diapers…) but a storage unit (like those used to transport cargo on boats) that will be used as the delivery room. It is very impressive.
The comparison of the Casa Materna in Mulukuku to the one in Puerto Cabezas was vast. In Puerto Cabezas, the women have a small patio out from in which there are a couple rubber made chairs, inside there is a main room in which the only decoration is the small TV. The paint is chipping from the walls both inside and out. The area in the back has been filled with some trash in corner, long since cared for. This Casa Materna probably serves 2 to 3 times more than the one in Mulukuku will once opened. It treats women all the way from Rio Coco up to the north of Puerto Cabezas, 2 municipalities. While the women are able to stay free of charge, they are not supplied with anything. They are required to provide their own supplies from diapers to soap to rubbing alcohol to disinfect. Most are so poor that these things are all but impossible to obtain, it is probably hard enough to have bar of soap in their house let alone an extra for their stay at the Casa Materna. None the less, they are very appreciative and have a sense of ease and relief in their eyes when I asked them how they felt about the Casa Materna. This was accompanied by a look of desperation and abandon, how are they going to care for and feed this child was how I interpreted it.
The visit was bittersweet and I wish I had the power of a large church behind me so that I could organize and send down supplies and materials to help out with the services and mission of the Casa Materna. If anyone who reads this is moved the way I was to help please let me know. I am planning on gathering some supplies to send down to these women in Puerto Cabezas.


At 10:26 AM, Blogger Americans for UNFPA said...

Check out our video about Francisca del Carmen Espinoza Ortiz who runs a network of casa maternas.

Francisca del Carmen Espinoza Ortiz leads the Board of Directors for the Red Nacional de Casas Maternas — Maternity Homes National Network. She helps raise maternal survival rates and the value of womens lives throughout Nicaragua. Under Franciscas leadership, Casas Maternas provides comprehensive medical care and temporary shelter to more than 11,000 women annually. She relies on UNFPA to equip new homes and strengthen those in existence. Today, the Casas Maternas includes 60 homes.


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