Caring for mums in Indonesia

Sally Arnold in IndonesiaA big thank you to Intrepid’s passionate group leaders around the world who play a vital role in inspiring travellers to care about and donate to projects supported by The Intrepid Foundation.

One of Intrepid Travel’s longest serving group leaders, Sally Arnold, is passionate about The Intrepid Foundation’s Indonesian project, Bumi Sehat, which has been making huge inroads to address maternal health issues…

“I’d like to tell you about our Intrepid Foundation project in Indonesia, it’s called Yayasan Bumi Sehat, which means ‘Healthy Earth Foundation’ (as in ‘mother earth’). It was started by a woman known as Ibu Robyn – Ibu is the formal term of address for women in Indonesia, but it also means ‘mother’. Her life changed when her sister died in childbirth – Robyn then became a midwife and set about using her skills, so that women in Indonesia wouldn’t suffer the same fate.

For several reasons, Indonesia has one of the highest rates in South East Asia of maternal mortality. Women die in childbirth here mostly from bleeding due to poor nutrition. Even though people eat till they’re full, the diet is not very nutritious. Women of child bearing age are often the main breadwinners in the families – they’re always running around busy. We know that people have busy lives everywhere, but women here not only have the obligations of earning money for the whole family, looking after the kids, cooking, doing all the usual things, but they also have religious obligations and have to make offerings everyday. They’re flat out. They don’t have a lot of time to eat properly, they’re just grabbing food here and there, and are not getting all the vitamins and nutrients they need. There’s actually a term they use for this, they call it ‘full stomach malnutrition’.

One problem in Indonesia is that health care is not free. It’s very expensive to go to hospital and to have a baby in a hospital can cost several months’ wages. Here the hospitals also encourage caesarean birth, as there are more profits to the hospital and this can also result in unaffordable bills for families. When a woman goes to a local health clinic to give birth (where they also pay), if there are complications, they don’t often get to the hospital in time or they might not be admitted – unless they can prove they can pay – so the consequences may be grim.

Bumi Sehat was set up as a free (by donation) health clinic to provide safe maternal health. They do pre and postnatal checks, provide free prenatal vitamins, and all sorts of information. They provide birthing services and make sure the women are breast feeding. There’s a really big push by the milk companies here to get women to buy baby formula. When you’re poor, this can cost several days’ wages, so they tend to skimp on the amount they give to their babies, and it’s also a problem having clean water to make the formula which puts babies at risk, so it’s much healthier in these communities to have young baby’s breastfeed.

At Bumi Sehat they will treat anyone and have become quite well known in the region, so women will come from surrounding islands to the clinic in Bali. They also operate another clinic in Aceh.

They do an amazing job. Over the years they have grown from being just focused on maternal health to now focusing on the whole community – they have pediatric clinics; education and environmental programs; health, nutrition and hygiene training; general health clinic – all by donation, people pay whatever they can afford – which sometimes can be nothing. They also provide scholarships for poor girls to train as midwives, traditionally a job reserved for middle class girls.

Bumi Sehat do a fantastic job! Because of them, lots of babies and mothers have survived who wouldn’t have otherwise. I’m really proud that Intrepid is associated with such a commendable organisation.”

Bumi Sehat IndonesiaThe Intrepid Foundation – travellers making a difference
Help support Bumi Sehat and other great organisations via the Intrepid Foundation, plus find out how your donation can be matched* by Intrepid Travel!

* Donations will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$5000 (or equivalent) per donor and a total of AU$400,000 each financial year.

Photos by Sally Arnold & Bumi Sehat

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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