with Thu Anh
For a long time, women living in remote provinces across Viet Nam became midwives by default, only because they were elderly or had children themselves.
"For years now our village has gone without a doctor or nurse, there are only elderly midwives who rely on traditional methods to help local women bear children, leaving mother and baby at risk," said H'Ruh, a M'Nong girl who lives in a remote village in the mountainous province of Dak Nong's Dak G'long District.
H'Ru is among hundreds of ethnic minority women who have taken advantage of a reproductive training course for ethnic minority women run by the HCM City-based Tu Du Obstetrics Hospital, funded by UK-based pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline Viet Nam.
"The course is part of the hospital's long-term project, which began in 2000, to minimise the negative consequences of ethnic minority people's poor reproductive health knowledge," Professor Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, one of the project's founders, said.
H'Ru, 37, spent nearly a year living in HCM City to do the course. She said adapting was not easy, but she was glad she could return home with the knowledge to help her village with reproductive care.
One of H'Ru's fellow students, Ngo Thi Gam of the frontier village of Dak Mil said, "I tried my best to get results during the course because I know how valuable this is to improve the lives of women and children where I live."
Last year, Gam and her assistant, H'Sam, helped 49 local women give birth naturally to healthy babies.
The 26-year-old in traditional dress, said her understanding of science through the course "has improved my villager's living standards."
Doctor Phuong, former director of Tu Du Hospital, said the project was effective in training ethnic midwives from south central Viet Nam and the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta provinces.
"Our ambition is to reduce the infant mortality rate in mountainous regions," she added.
After 10 years of the project, more than 500 ethnic women from provinces of Binh Phuoc, Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Nong, Lam Dong and Binh Thuan have gone back to their villages armed with the skills of a modern midwife.
The course graduates go a long way to fill the knowledge gaps back home, making a difference in village reproductive care and childbirth.
From 2006 to 2010, 7,300 new-born babies were born in the care of the project's midwives. Nearly 36,000 women and their babies also received postnatal and new-born care services from the participants.
"Babies are God-given gifts. Birth of a baby brings happiness and joy to its family and to the world. I love my work because I feel part of a wonderful mission," said Gam, who dreams to continue her studies to be an obstetrician. — VNS