Beyond MCH Program

Mangganippi is a remote village, 27 km west from Weetebula, the capital city of West Sumba. To reach this village we can go by ‘oto’ (local bus) or motor cycle with a dusty and bumpy road, passing some kilometers of forests. Actually this village is only two kilometer from Homba Karipit Clinic but because the lack of transportation facility, people can not reach the clinic easily. Most of the residents are peasant farmers that grow cashew nut. They only have money when cashew fruit crops are ripe i.e. between September to January. Cashew fruit price for one kilogram is 8000 rupiah or less then $1 US. For one week they can sell 50 kilogram or about 400.000 rupiah ($44 US). Corn and paddy/rice are planted during rainy season, but the crops are not good enough.

In this area water is hard to find. A German non-government organization (NGO) said in a research, that the water can be found at 20 meter depth. Or by collecting the rain water during the rainy season from December to April as the other way to get the water. During dry season people can buy water for Rp15.000,00 ($1,6) per gallon when the truck comes once a week. “We dream of water coming to our village but there is no help from any donor until now,” said Martinus Meha Koba, a 50 year-old village chief. He also hoped that Pro Air (a local NGO cooperates with GTZ, a funding agency; air =water) not only operated on the area close to the main roads, but also goes to villages in remote areas.

The scarcity of water makes some healthy problem there. Diarrhea, upper respiratory infection, underweight babies, gastritis, anemia, skin illness, and also malaria and sometimes we find kidney problem are the most common illnesses in the villages. They also don’t have a karangkitri (a ‘life kitchen’ – planting vegetables nearby houses) “vegetable garden” which makes them fragile and so prone to illness. Most of the people in Sumba like to eat meat rather than vegetables and also they tend to have large families. Minimum healthy concept mixed with poverty makes for a never ending vicious circle.

Between the years 2005-2008 maternal and child health (MCH) program sponsored by Cordaid went to West Sumba and it covered pregnant mother and children illnesses at the village level. Until now, about 3000 child has been served by Karitas Weetebula Hospital using Integrated Management Child Illness (IMCI) method. By this method so many malnutrition children can be saved. Some sick children are from this village.

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This creative Village Chief, Martinus, once asked Karitas Hospital of Weetebula to come and provide a basic health care to the people ( giving medicine and providing information – education). It was followed then by 85 villages all over West Sumba so that people’s health were better served. During a visit in May 2008, a mobile clinic team from Karitas Hospital, Weetebula came with seven nurses. One of them, an eye care nurse and another one a volunteer from Ireland named Isabel, 25 year old. She is a nurse, who works voluntary for two years for Karitas Hospital. Her duty was educating the people from village to village to practice healthy life style. She and the team also assisted patients in taking essential medicines.

Martinus, the village chief, riding a motor cycle and carrying a loudspeaker went around the village asking people to come and listen to some information regarding health education, as well as being treated for their illnesses by Karitas Weetebula Hospital team. In a short time about 300 people gathered one by one to assemble at the public house and listen to presentations of how to have a healthier life. Many people came wearing cleaner clothes than normally, but others came in dirty conditions, like the children, who wore dirty t-shirt and sandals and their fingernails and toenails were also dirty. Through the loudspeaker Martinus announced that it was very important to keep the food healthy, for example don’t serve rice that is cold for it could be infected by flies or other insect or even mouse and hence the children to get sick.

“We give medicine to sick people but not to everybody who comes here. Because the people hope for the medicine even though they were not ill. We try to tell them that medicine is poison to kill the disease but also can kill the person if they are not ill,” explained Andre, one of the nurses. This poor health condition was caused by unhealthy food and lack of knowledge. The people would just have dry noodles so as to have something to eat but without vegetables and so it is easy to catch some sickness. Rarely would they drink milk, and don’t have a karangkitri, a vegetable garden nearby house. That’s what Andre explained to the people.

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Isabel the Irish nurse, spoke about malaria and diarrhea. “Malaria happens because of mosquito bite, and malaria germ will enter the human body. Every year one million die especially children. If you get a fever, shiver, and feel sick, sometimes vomiting, then it is the sign of malaria disease. For children, if they have a high fever they can get rigid. If the fever is very high, take off the patients clothes and wipe the body with hot water. If they don’t get well in two days then go to the hospital immediately,” she said. For pregnant mothers, they were advised to use a mosquito net when sleeping.

Isabel also checked the ladies blood pressure. Some of them were pregnant. For pregnant mother she advised them not to chew betel leaf because it could cause gases on the stomach, especially when the stomach was not filled with food. In Sumba Island, chewing betel leaf is common for them. It is better to chew it rather than eat food. Chewing is a tradition both for men or women.

Many of them suffered from skin infection, trachea infection, respiratory illness, skin illness, underweight and malaria. One baby of nine month had an eyes inflammation. One eye could not be opened. This can easily happen during the dry season because of dust and viruses. Eye trouble also easily occurs because the people live in a houses with poor lighting. YW

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