Project Information

Health Projects Run by the AHS

Village Birth Attendants (VBAs)
What is the need ?
At present 60% of women deliver their babies unsupervised in villages.
Infant mortality rate deteriorated from 72 per 1000 live births in 1980 to 77 per 1000 in 1996 and continues to worsen.
In rural areas there are 20 maternal deaths per 1000 births.

These figures are likely to understate the case as there is no requirement to register births or deaths. Also there is an increasing disparity between the educated middle class living in the towns and cities and the 85% of people who live in villages.

Personal Story
Marie had 5 children when she became pregnant again. She didn't really want another child, but her husband, like many other men, was not in favour of her attending the family planning clinic at the Health Sub Centre. Her previous children, plus one who had died soon after birth, were delivered by her "auntie" in the village. She knew that the woman wasn't trained, but it was the custom, and it was too far to walk to the Health Sub Centre at Manau for antenatal checks and in any case she felt alright, certainly no worse than during her other pregnancies.

When her labour pains started, her "auntie" felt a bit anxious but continued with the delivery. The baby was delivered, but she was bleeding badly and feeling very weak. She was rushed to the health centre at Manau but the health workers there decided that they must get her to Popondetta Hospital. There was delay while the family found a dinghy to hire to take her down the coast to Gona and raised the money to pay for it. Meanwhile the OIC (Officer In Charge) sent a radio message for the ambulance to transport her from Gona to Popondetta Hospital. Sadly she died on the beach at Gona.

The villages around Manau, as elsewhere, are looking forward to the day when they each have their own Village Birth Attendant (Manau now has its own dinghy too).

How do VBAs help ?
VBAs are selected by their local communities, to undertake a 3 week training programme, after which they work in their own villages. In this way we aim to have a trained "auntie" in every village.

On completion of the training they receive a birthing kit, hurricane lamp, bucket, badge and a certificate.

After training VBAs are able to:-

VBA aunties
  • Advise women on how to care for themselves during pregnancy
  • Assist with normal deliveries in the village
  • Refer high risk women for deliveries at the health centre
  • Refer any emergency to the aid post or health centre using an established referral system
  • Advise mothers on the care of their infants including the prevention of malnutrition and infectious disease
  • Advise mothers on the care of sick infants and the importance of early referral for treatment
  • Advise women on the importance of family planning
Where do VBAs work ?
There are currently about 140 VBAS working in the remote villages in Milne Bay Province, the Jimi Valley of Western Highlands and the Siane District of Chimbu Province. We are in the process of extending the programme to Oro Province and West New Britain. VBAs work in the more remote villages, where women find it difficult to walk to the health centre or aid post. Because the project is training people from their own villages it facilitates local people to help themselves. The village select and support their own VBAs and are thus enabled to take action to improve their own health.

The services provided by the trained VBAs is provided free to everyone and the VBAs themselves provide their services on a voluntary basis.

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This web-site was last updated on the 20th of Oct. 2001