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Caring for Mothers and Babies After the Earthquake

With limited access to healthcare and nutrition, pregnant mothers and their babies are at particular risk after disasters. Local midwives are working to change that.


Indonesia Earthquake 2018

Healthcare providers with Bumi Sehat Foundation see the smallest patients on Oct. 16, 2018, at temporary clinic set up in Palu, Indonesia, to treat people displaced by last month's devastating earthquake and tsunami. (Photo courtesy of Bumi Sehat Foundation)

Indonesia’s devastating earthquake and tsunami ravaged the northern coast of Sulawesi last month, and more than 2,100 people lost their lives. Hundreds are still missing, and life for many who survived has been upended as they contemplate how to rebuild.

What hasn’t changed is the need for a place where mothers can give birth safely.

That’s something Robin Lim and her team of midwives know, and what prompted them to travel to Indonesia last week.

Lim is the founder of Bumi Sehat Foundation, based in Bali, Indonesia, which provides health services for women and babies. In addition to bringing about 600 newborns into the world each year, the midwives and medical teams of Bumi Sehat are often first responders after disasters occur in the region. After the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, Bumi Sehat responded to care for mothers and babies, and became experts in post-disaster maternal and infant care.

When Indonesia was struck last month by another earthquake and tsunami, Bumi Sehat deployed once again.

Lim and her team of two midwives, three nurses, a doctor traveled to Palu, along with medicine and disaster relief supplies, and arrived as aftershocks were still rattling the area.

As they left the airport, “we were soon laying eyes on a city betrayed by nature,” Lim wrote Direct Relief in an email. “Buildings left standing teetered on the verge of collapse. Multi-leveled shopping malls, pancaked. Thousands of people camped in fields, under blue tarps and plastic bags. Many still hoped missing family would be found alive.”

With options for medical care limited after the earthquake, Lim and her team work to bring care to patients outside of hospital walls. (Photo courtesy of Bumi Sehat)

In Indonesia, many hospitals and medical facilities were damaged in the earthquake, so Lim and her team set up outside of Badu Agung hospital in Palu, Indonesia, since the building itself was too structurally unstable to host patients.

Lim and her team have been conducting medical outreach to remote areas that have been cut off from medical care and outside aid. One of those places was the Sigi area of Sulawesi, and by Monday, the team there had helped oversee a birth.

“Nearly all of the pregnant mothers had lost babies in the past, most also suffered hypertension, all were malnourished,” she wrote. “We dispersed vitamins and advised them to eat more of the leafy greens from their gardens. Fish from the ocean was not marketed at all since the tsunami. Anyway, it’s too expensive. Eggs or chicken are impossible.”

By the end of the day,  Lim and her team had seen 200 patients. They’ve continued medical outreach since then.

On Wednesday, she posted that the medical team had been able to access Pipikoro, an area of Central Sulawesi that was only accessible by helicopter. The team was able to see 138 patients there.

Direct Relief will continue to support partner organizations in Indonesia like Bumi Sehat that are providing care for patients.

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