Posted By: John P. Howe, III, M.D. on March 5, 2015

Labels: Indonesia , Women’s and Children’s Health

I am so inspired by the resilience of the Indonesian people who have worked tirelessly to rebuild their lives after the tsunami struck in 2004. My final site visit on this remarkable journey in Southeast Asia was in the district of Serang, the site of our women’s and children’s health program in partnership with Johnson & Johnson Indonesia and Give 2 Asia.  We drove out to Serang with great anticipation. Fighting the traffic in Jakarta, coming or going, was its own adventure requiring adept skill from our driver, a commitment to spending hours on the road, and great patience. However, the end result was worth it. Experiencing our programs in action is why we do what we do!

Dr. Howe Indonesia Women's and Children's Health

The district of Serang has a population of over 1,500, 000, including more than 60 sub-districts. Each sub-district has a health outpost run by a midwife and a dedicated core of community health workers. These sub-districts refer the mothers to larger health centers dispersed throughout Serang. Project HOPE has four midwives that travel throughout the district providing train-the-trainer instruction, health advocacy, community-level health promotion, and health care provider training – specifically in Basic Emergency Obstetric Neonatal Care (BEONC). We met with Dr. Sri Nurhayati, the Director of the District Health Office Serang, and she told us how pleased she is with the program. Why? Because the key health indicators are all improving. More expectant mothers are coming in early for exams and care. More mothers are being referred to the health centers for deliveries by trained mid-wives, particularly important for more complicated deliveries.

In Tunjung Teja, we observed a delightful welcoming ceremony and a community health session delivered by the local midwife and health workers.  We spoke with the mayor and found out, due to HOPE’s advocacy and community-level organization, the village came together, pooled scarce resources, and purchased a dedicated ambulance to transport expecting and referred mothers from the outpost to the health center. 

Dr. Howe Indonesia Women's and Children's Health

We then visited the Tunjung Teja Health Center, touring the brand new BEONC Care Unit, upgraded by Project HOPE with donated equipment and supplies. We met with the district physicians and nurses and learned how much the HOPE program is needed and appreciated here. Like the HealthWorks program in Subang, this effort in Serang is scalable and can be replicated in other districts. The one question I am always asked, after being told how wonderful our current program is, is: "When can HOPE do more?" There is always a desire – and a need – for more. And our team is dedicated to finding ways to do just that.

Inspired and more energized than ever, but with a certain sadness after leaving our wonderful field-based colleagues, friends, and partners behind, we headed home as champions for our work in Southeast Asia and around the world.  The 2004 tsunami hit this country hard, and the impact of the storm on people’s lives will never be forgotten. Impressively, HOPE is still there today with long-term programs reaching people that are still in need, most notably the incredible and resilient women and children of Indonesia.  We have done so much, but still have so much more to do!

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