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They don’t have to die!

Sophie is one of the young women our team spoke to in Kratie Province, Cambodia. Here is her story…

Sophie’s contractions started at 3am. Her husband, parents and traditional birth attendants gathered at her home in a remote Cambodian village of Kratie Province to await the delivery. By 12 noon, there had been no progress. The attendants insisted that the baby wasn’t ready yet.

Things began to look eerily similar to the previous year…

In 2012, Sophie was pregnant with her first child. When it came time to give birth, she laboured for many long hours in the dilapidated shack that is her home before anyone recognised danger signs. Finally, the decision was made to take her to the nearest health centre—about two hours away. But by the time they arrived, it was too late.

Sophie had lost her baby.

Sophie-e1400735279392Now in 2013, Sophie was attempting to give birth for the second time at home. This time while she was in labour, Samaritan’s Purse Cambodia staff arrived in the village to distribute supplementary food to malnourished children. They were working with the mothers there to improve child nutrition and provide parenting training. They heard about Sophie. Our staff rushed Sophie down pot-holed, red-dirt roads to get her to the closest health centre, about 15 miles away.

During the painful journey, Sophie feared the worst.

When she arrived, three doctors attended to her. They gave her an injection and an IV, and they fervently tried to save her child. Three times, they attempted to pull the baby out. One doctor pulled so hard he fell down. Finally, the baby came… silence. The baby had not survived.

“I felt so tired and had no more strength,” Sophie said.

Outside her home in Choeng village, Sophie sat on a large wooden platform surrounded by a handful of friends and neighbours. She said having them there made it easier to talk about the tragedy. Samaritan’s Purse staff listened intently as the 22-year-old, her voice quivering, told her heartbreaking tale of losing two children in the past two years. Behind her, a mother nursed a newborn.

Sadly, Sophie’s experience is a reality for many women in the rural villages of Kratie. Instead of giving birth at health centres, they rely on traditional birth attendants or even deliver alone in the forest. Then, when complications arise, they are too far away to receive skilled care in time. Unfortunately, they can’t go to the health centre before they begin labour because there’s nowhere for them to stay.

All this is about to change. Samaritan’s Purse is building maternity wards so that women have a place to go to give birth. Two new maternity wards are currently under construction at health centres in the Kratie province, including one at the health centre nearest Choeng village where Sophie lives.

Samaritan’s Purse is also running a Maternal Infant Child Health program with the assistance of local women volunteers. One of the volunteers is Voeun Chem, who lives just down the road from Sophie. Voeun also knows the pain of losing children — her baby son lived for just 1 month, two other babies lived only 3 months, and another son died at 12 years old. Voeun’s eldest daughter, Phoeun, 33, also experienced a miscarriage at three months, another one at seven months, and had a baby girl who died at birth.

“It’s hard for the mothers. We worry about our grandkids and about our daughters because something very often happens to the women who are delivering babies,” Voeun said.

But mixed in with the sorrow, her voice carries a sense of optimism. Voeun is about to welcome two new grandchildren into her family. Phoeun is seven months pregnant, and her other daughter, Sam Oeun, 25, is eight months along with her first child. Both plan to give birth at the health centre. As a volunteer, Voeun is now helping other pregnant women in Choeng village understand the benefits of delivering their babies at the health centre. With a personality much bigger than her petite frame, Voeun exudes passion about her role.

“Sometimes I walk house to house to encourage the pregnant women to access the health centre, especially to deliver the baby at the health centre, not at home,” she said.

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Hope is rising in Choeng village. Women are learning how to care for themselves and their families, children are growing healthier and soon, mothers will have a place to stay when delivering their babies.

Sophie sits again outside her house in the hot sun with friends and neighbours. She has been attending our Mother and Child Health program and has learned that there will soon be a maternity ward near her village. Next time, she believes, the tears will be joyful.

Cambodia has one of the worst maternal and child mortality rates in the world. This is a crisis and we cannot ignore the heartfelt cries of the women in Kratie;

              – “When I was pushing, the local midwife broke my baby’s neck”

              – “I’m so afraid to be a mother”

              – “I’m worried my baby will not survive the delivery process”

They need our help. The needs of women and children are huge. Right now, in Kratie Province alone, there is a critical need for 15 maternity wards as well as help with serious levels of child malnutrition and pandemic domestic violence against both women and children.

Please send your donation today so that lives can be saved and thousands of women throughout Cambodia and other poverty-stricken countries can face childbirth with joy instead of fear and raise healthy children in a safe environment.