02 March 2010

Meeting at children ward

By SRI MARYANTI (updated Nov 26, 2009)

When I looked at them, I immediately asked why their face looks so old. Though the two women's age was not much different from mine. Even Mama Blandina's face looked as if she was fifties while in fact she was
 35 years old. There seemed to be a problem with these women. What I guessed was true, not long after talking with Ms. Blandina, her eyes became wet as soon as she told me her live. So it was with Mama Helena.

Holding her youngest child is two and a half years old,
Blandina Mafani told her story. In a relatively young age, she had given birth six times. And six times did he give birth without medical help. Even more sad, for most pregnant women from the Tulleng village in Lembur subdistrict in Alor have never checked the baby to a health center or clinic. Fortunately, there were traditional midwives in the village who could be asked during childbirth. So she did not know her baby's weight at birth. Thus she did not quite understand what normal and healthy child at birth.

Health center was far away. Midwives and health workers had never visited the house. But there were more problems. Her husband forbade her to go to the clinic for this. When her youngest child was seriously ill, he remained adamant not to take him to the hospital. After some neighbors forced her, she let his son suffering from malnutrition be taken to the clinic. It was the reason why the child ended in the ward because the health center was not able to serve him. She did not participate family planning because the husband prohibited her. Some people in

Alor still believe that family planning was not good. It can interfere with sexual relationship of husband and wife. So Mama Blandina only drank traditional herb to prevent pregnancy. Yet she has six children.

Blandina youngest is almost two and a half years. His weight is only six pounds. Her body thin, her legs withered, his eyes blank. Livianus child's name. Since the age of one year he did not want to eat. Her mother did not have enough time to take care of it. Moreover, waiting for him at meals. All day he could work in the garden. If he was to the garden, the children cared for her brothers who are still children. If not to her husband often beat her garden. Return from the garden, he still had to find water and cooking.

Do not blame her if her son had to suffer from malnutrition. She lived with a lot of burden. Everyday she rarely has any money. Her husband sold directly the family orchards' harvest and often used for gambling. The money she never received. Her husband would just give her the money if rice stock is out and soap up. Each time she received money from her family, her husband always asked it back. Hers is unfortunate fate.

Halena who also had already a week to stay in the children ward with her child to be treated experienced the same situation. Although not as unfortunate as Mama Blandina, at the age of 36 years she already gave birth five times though she was never assisted by medical personnel during delivery. Although her husband is not as grumpy as Mama Blandina's husband, this women who hails from Margeta village in south-west Alor has also to work in the orchard. She left her at home while she and her husband worked in the orchard. No one then pay attention to pattern of children's meals. Eventually his daughter Vitriani Bagaihing, only one-year-old was forced to be hospitalized. She is only six pounds. She has diarrhea and kept vomiting before rushed to the hospital. Like Mama Blandina, Helena also did not join family planning program. When I asked why not join the program, she only glanced at her husband. When I asked him if he had forbidden his wife joined family planning, he blushed.

Alor women are equally unfortunate. They share the heavy workload. Both had many children. Equally they are remote from access to health services. Neither have attended any school. None join with family planning. And both are equally caught in a social culture far from any development programs, a culture that still puts women as only half-human. Now they end in the children's ward hospital.

Many women like them could be found in
Alor villages, although they do not always get to the hospital ward to carry her baby for malnutrition. Generally malnourished children are only brought to the hospital after their condition was classified as severe or already in the state of marasmus or kwasiorkhor or kwasiorkhor marasmus.

Regarding women concerns, in the last five years the average number of cases of violence against women in the police recorded 38 cases annually. Those who do not report to the police of course must be far greater. This condition occurs because people are still stuck in traditional male dominant society.

Apparently resolving the problem of violence against women that often leads to the emergence of children with malnutrition would be more difficult when people are not getting an adequate education. It's hard to expect a change in the public consciousness if they are not also offered with education. Shall we blame the parents whose children suffer from malnutrition as their right to education has not fulfilled?

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