Rural women in the Nainital district in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand have often had to walk several kilometres to reach the nearest hospital even when they’re pregnant, owing to weak road connectivity. To provide them some relief, the district administration has come up with an innovative solution tailored to the hilly terrain. A palanquin service has been initiated to assist women in labour, in going to the hospital.
This move is much needed, since many women have lost their lives giving birth because of the logistical difficulties in the region. Four years ago, 35-year-old Radha Devi died due to excessive bleeding as the nearest primary healthcare centre was 60 kilometres away from her remote village of Lwardobha, and the ambulance failed to make it in time. As recently as March 2019, Mamta Devi died soon after her daughter was born in hilly Okhalkanda. In the absence of mobile network, the ambulance couldn’t be called at all.
District Magistrate Savin Bansal released Rs 10,00,000 ($13,555) recently to the chief medical officer to arrange 500 “dolis” or palanquins to take women in labour to the nearest road head or hospital for safe delivery. This initiative has been put in place mainly for the villages in the hill development blocks of Dhari, Ramgarh, Okhalkanda, Betalghat and Bhimtal, making Nainital the first district in the hilly state to have taken this step. This service will be offered to villages that are at least a kilometre away from the nearest road.
These palanquins are an integral part of life in Uttarakhand, as they serve as a means of livelihood for locals who manually ferry pilgrims up and down the hills on their way to the many major pilgrimage sites in the state.
Provisions to ensure this process flows smoothly have also been put in place. There will always be some money at the hospital and Rs 2,000 ($27) will be given to anyone who plays an instrumental part in bringing the woman to the hospital, Bansal said.
The administration hopes this step will help address the plight of women in need of medical care in rural areas, and also reduce the mother-child mortality rate in the long run.
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