TODAY -

Maternal Health Rights in Manipur during COVID 19 lockdown

Mamta Lukram *



One early morning on 14th June 2020, just received a disturbing image of a mentally unstable women giving natural birth by herself in front of the closed shop around Waheng Leikai, of Imphal area. More disheartening was in knowing the fact new born died after the delivery. Goosebumps! Attended by specialist doctors and nurses, best facilities are sought by the patient parties during child delivery.

A woman who has gone through it could instantly reflect on the quantum of pain their body experienced in having labour pain through natural contractions during a normal delivery. Though health research have categorically stated that 'pain is subjective' with no objective way of measuring it.

As quoted 'what hurts me may not hurt you and vice-versa.' Yet, at all stance childbirth without medication is accepted as an extremely painful life experience, the degree of which can't be measured as equal to anything, like breaking 20 bones at one time or any other mechanical quantum.Such natural pain during life process must not have been an exception for that mentally disabled lady too.

Multiple underpinning questions piled up with the shocking information. One striking reflection is that, nationwide lockdown starts from 24th March 2020, extending in phase-wise across the nation. So, 14th June apparently means, it is admist lockdown. Onlookers must have observed her loitering around in the pregnant posture since few months backs.

Days before the incident, her physical anatomy must have spoken a lot and people must have seen her moving along. Timely intervention could have avoided the disheartening incident.Was the failure of immediate response due to prevailing ethos of nobody's responsibility or nobody's business?During tough time of global pandemic, they are most vulnerable. The populace of mentally deprived women in the state and in Imphal city is not beyond control.

Effective measures like identification, intervention and sterilisation could prove fruitful for the very few mentally disable women roaming around. No doubt, the condemnable mentality of the man who took advantage is beastly. When humanity losses its groundings, equally insecure is everyone. Responsible concern authority needs a policy for safeguarding the lives of mentally disable women too. They have the rights to live.

Another heart wrenching story is about Thoudam Malemnganbi @ Abem, 24 years, W/O Thoudam Sanjitkumar 33yrs from Thoubal Thoudam Mamang Leikai, ward no 3/14, who unfortunately passed away on 2nd August 2020 during her child delivery.

According to family member, the last past months Malemnganbi used to have regular check-ups in the district hospital. She was also private patient of a doctor posted in Thoubal District Hospital. She already had a-six year old son through normal delivery and life has been running quite normal for her.

Catastrophe spelt in her life when doctors 3 doctors and a grade IV posted in Thoubal District Hospital were confirmed COVID 19 positive leading to sealing of the hospital. Rejecting treatment of people from Thoubal District in other hospitals, without COVID 19 test results multiplies inconveniences. Erecting barricades with bamboo fences blocking people from any other district, Thoubal in particular was the greatest mental and mobility set back to the family.

By the time her due dates was approaching, her family failed to maintain smooth communication with the concern doctor. Fixed in chaos, the family tried to contact a hospital which didn't turn up with recommendable solution. Being caught in a choiceless dilemma, the family was reduced to a state of helplessness.

The only hope was, as the lady gave normal delivery to her first son who is now six years old, and her concerned doctor was of the view that everything was normal, there is high probability of successful normal delivery for this second time too. So, the family started looking for options. Relying on traditional practice was the idea open to them.

As shared by the family, they were little hopeful getting the information that after COVID 19 lockdown has destroyed normalcy, few others family have also successfully relied on traditional midwiferies. So, when Malemnganbi started having her natural labour contraction, she was fed to traditional midwifery. Luckily by 8.40 am in the morning of 2nd August 2020, she delivered a baby boy and the condition was stable.

The family rejoiced and breathe of sigh with the successful step. The whole family have been busy with post-delivery initiatives and preparing food for her, suddenly she started showing signs of discomfort. She was attended by nurse, but her health lapses into critical juncture due to complicacies of internal bleeding. Within no time she succumbed. The ill-fated family was left behind in a shock.

Later, the child seems to develop some discomfort, the panic stricken family come out looking for medical assistance, which rather was more disheartening even. They went out for Shija Hospital which demanded test result or either a note confirming test has been conducted. This made them waited outside the CMO office Thoubal with the motherless new-born for hours in vain. They took up the courage and managed to get in through Shija Hospital.

The hospital staffs, keeping under consideration the situation, contacted a paediatrics over the phone and the doctor gave telephonic instructions in responding the need of the infant. Finally, the family members reached home late evening after having tested negative for COVID 19 in Thoubal Hospital.

As expressed by the family member, COVID 19 has havoc their family. They were of the view that it was neither out of carelessness nor financial constraint that the unfortunate mother was made to deliver her baby at home, but out of endless confusions that stuck them in every step. They resign to their fate, however are disheartened with the system of disarray submerging in endless confusion the lives of common people.

Another latest incident is the video clipping about a voice note in 91.2 Diamond FM Radio Channel in its program called 'Pukning gee Warol' on 4th August, 2020. A lady called Moirangthem Sanatombi, from Tentha, Thoubal District shared the story how a lady who is pregnant by five (5) months started experiencing bleeding, a possible symptom of miscarriage.

She started from home by 2 a.m. in the morning for Imphal, to get treated. First, Langol View hospital didn't accept to treat the woman. Later, they proceed to RIMS, whereby the hospital authority demanded the COVID 19 test results without which treatment was a far cry.

The patient party requested the hospital authority to provide a recommendation for the test. Meanwhile, during the process of confusion the bleeding patient have to stay back at the roadside of the RIMS hospital, in such a condition that the patient couldn't even stand properly due to bleeding.

These are some few examples whose case story surfaced in public domain so that it could be hand-picked to set as exemplary for many silent sufferers. There may be more undercover cases too. The crux in the interaction with the family members of Malemnganbi which mentioned that villagers have started looking more into traditional midwifery for child delivery is a risk factor for increasing maternal mortality rate in the state during lockdown.

COVID 19 is a disaster, it as a global pandemic that will turn down hopes and aspirations for many hundred thousand. However, child birth is another set of natural human phenomena, no global pandemic, no war or catastrophe could stop it. Maternity health rights for pregnant women must be encouraged.

International surveys and research have emphasised that women and children are the section of the population who are worst hit during any sudden negative change in the environment. The endowed physical differences, the constraints must be prioritised. Understanding its constraints is understanding women.

So, the humble appeal to concern authority is that, the same time combating COVID 19, simultaneous maternity health care benefits must be arranged. A thoughtful way out to save many Malemnganbis is utmost needed to prevent dismantling future of motherless kids.


* Mamta Lukram wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on August 14 2020 .



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