Tribal mothers in remote northern Vietnam are offered hope and help.
Giang Thi Cha, now in her early twenties, was just 14 when she gave birth to her first baby at home in the highlands of northern Vietnam. She was alone and afraid.
“There was no midwife or traditional birth attendant (TBA) in my village—no one to help me,” she recalled somberly. “The labor happened so fast, even my husband wasn’t there.” The teen had no choice but to deliver the baby on her own.
“My husband heard the baby’s cry and came running, then he called for his mother to come help us.”
Sadly, neither Giang’s age at the time nor the lack of medical support during her pregnancy are uncommon in Vietnam’s Lai Chau province where 20 ethnic groups comprise 90 per cent of the population. Harsh weather and rugged mountain topography limit access to health and education. Cultural beliefs and suspicion also keep some women from accessing the services that are available.
Thankfully, Giang and her baby both survived and through the support of Samaritan’s Purse she now has the opportunity to help build a brighter future for mothers and babies in her rural community.
Giang is one of 15 young women in Phong Tho District who have recently completed a six-month TBA training program funded by the generous gifts of Canadians like you. Upon graduation, she returned home as a salaried health worker with the Vietnamese government.
The trusting relationships that these TBAs already have with women and families in their home communities are vitally important for education and care around the sensitive topic of reproductive health. As Giang reflects on what she’s learned in the first half of the training course, she said confidently, “I know better—now I would go to the clinic to deliver. I will encourage other women in my village to do the same.”
In just the first two weeks at the clinic, five of the TBAs had already helped deliver their first babies. “My hands were shaking as I reached out to catch the baby,” said one young woman with a smile, “it was a beautiful baby girl.”
Another recalls how quickly her nerves turned to rejoicing: “When the baby let out its first cry, I was so happy!”
Program receives government recognition
Although the TBAs will counsel women in their communities to deliver at the clinic whenever possible, long distances and unpredictable timing will inevitably require them to put these birthing skills to practice in home deliveries. Samaritan’s Purse equips each graduate with a kit full of supplies for hygienic births and also practical tools like a flashlight, tape measure, and even a rain coat and rubber boots.
Government officials at all levels recognize the value of the program and the role these women play in their communities. In neighboring Sin Ho District, where 15 TBAs who graduated earlier are already at work in their villages, the hospital director was quick to endorse the program and underline the remaining need. “The TBAs are a very good resource to help with reproductive health at the commune level,” he said. “The need for more TBAs is huge, particularly in very remote communities. Many villages still need help.”
Past graduates have proven the value of the training and we know that God is using the knowledge and equipment entrusted to these young women to save and improve the lives of countless mothers and babies.