[lg policy] Peru: Tweaking language policy in clinics may save lives

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 8 19:04:09 UTC 2009

Peru:  Tweaking language policy in clinics may save lives
September 8, 2009

Pregnancy: Clinic in Rural Peru Draws More Women by Following Local
Childbirth Traditions

Rural parts of Ayacucho, Peru, have had some of the country’s highest
death rates in pregnancy and childbirth. As in many poor countries,
most of the deaths occur because women give birth at home, and those
trying to help do not know how to deliver a baby safely and prevent or
treat hemorrhage, infection and other deadly complications. In 1999 in
the Santillana district, part of the Ayacucho region, only 6 percent
of births took place at a clinic.

Health workers set out to change that. They started by asking people
in the community about traditional ways of giving birth, and about
what the clinic was doing wrong. They got an earful. Workers at the
clinic did not speak the local language, Quechua. They treated
patients brusquely, and barred husbands and other relatives from the
delivery room. They forced women to wear hospital gowns instead of
their own clothes, and made them give birth lying on a table instead
of squatting. They threw away the placenta instead of giving it to the
family to bury in a warm place.

Working with local people, members of a nongovernmental group, Health
Unlimited, changed delivery services at a clinic in the Santillana
district. They made sure Quechua was spoken, let relatives stay and
help, set up delivery rooms so that women could squat and made other
changes based on local traditions.By 2007, 83 percent of births were
taking place at the clinic. In a report in this month’s Bulletin of
the World Health Organization, the authors say that the project in
Ayacucho shows that indigenous women with little formal education want
professional help giving birth, and will use it if they are treated
with respect at clinics.



 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com


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