Nepal has great difficulties in proposing suitable guidance for mothers and the youngest children. As fewer than 20% of all births are assisted by qualified personnel, nearly one baby in twenty-five dies before it is one month old. Faced with this alarming situation and with the obvious gaps in pre- and post-natal treatment, Terre des hommes runs projects for mother and child healthcare, with the aim of curbing this scourge a little. Like in this poignant story, work on the ground bears practical fruit and a meeting can sometimes change the course of a life.
Sita (name changed) had given birth only 23 days earlier when she came in contact with a volunteer from Chhimeki (local NGO partners). Her sister Priya (name changed), who lives in Kathmandu, was used to bringing her own baby to the Chhimeki centre (kindergarten). When Priya mentioned her sister’s situation, facilitators and volunteers immediately wanted to meet her, and after hearing her story, they discovered that Sita had left Ramechap only 14 days after giving birth.
Sita and her husband had been married for 15 years without children. Her husband works in India. One day, on returning from the only trip she had ever made with him, she learned that she was pregnant. Six months later the baby was born, weighing only 1.5 kilos. Her husband did not acknowledge the child and sent his wife and baby back to her village, where nobody accepted them. Tormented by her father and stepmother, she was even expelled from the village. Not knowing what else to do, she got in touch with her sister Priya in Kathmandu.
Sita never stopped saying that the baby was really and truly her husband’s. The facilitator and the volunteer suggested making a DNA test so Sita could confirm what she said. However, after a certain time, the pressure was too much for her and Sita felt obliged to tell the truth. One day when she was alone at home, her father and stepmother out working in the fields, her brother-in-law appeared, totally drunk, and abused her sexually. Completely shocked and afraid, she hid the truth for months, as her brother-in-law threatened her if she dared reveal the facts of the matter. When the baby was born, she was finally thrown out of her own home and the village.
Now alone, Sita found herself with a baby suffering from acute malnutrition and not properly breast-fed. After her sister’s intervention, the facilitators and volunteers from Chhimeki visited her five times and brought her and the baby food and clothing for over two months. They also suggested she should share her own story with other mothers in the same situation, and this request gave her back a bit more self-confidence.
Reintegrated and slowly becoming happier, Sita also started to look after her sister’s child and helped her with the daily housework. When Priya decided to get married, Sita became strong enough to take charge of her own life and finally found a job. Today, thanks to her self-sacrifice and the help of Tdh, Sita feels reconstructed and earns a wage, and her child has grown well and is doing well for his age, enjoying the Chhimeki kindergarten.