Here’s How Bolivia’s Indigenous Midwives Are Reducing Infant Mortality
EXCERPT: NBC NEWS
Mariana Limachi left the hospital in this high Andes city in tears after a doctor told her she needed a C-section because the umbilical cord was wrapped around her 8-month fetus.
Instead, she turned for help to a highly respected figure among Bolivia’s indigenous women: the midwife. A few weeks later, midwife Ana Choque, an Aymara woman, delivered Limachi’s first son at her home using sunflower oil, paper napkins and coca leaves.
After decades of shortages of trained people to help in deliveries, the role of midwives has been growing in recent years in Bolivia, which joined international efforts to improve the skills of midwives and bring them into closer contact with the medical community.
Aymara and Quechua indigenous groups make up a majority of the country’s population, and many indigenous women like Limachi distrust hospitals and cesarean births. They prefer to rely on traditional midwives, who they often refer to as “aunt.”
The midwife training program is partially financed by the U.N. Population Fund, which has supported similar initiatives in Bolivia previously.
Their lessons include dealing with emergency situations such as how to disinfect wounds or the best way to prepare a woman to be safely taken to a hospital in case of an uncontrollable hemorrhage.
Choque is one of 22 women among the group who have so far passed an exam to get officially qualified by the health ministry.
The 58-year-old midwife learned the trade from her grandmother when she was 15. In the four decades since, she says, she has delivered more than 3,000 babies.