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Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

When ChildFund staff found Theresa, she was lying on the side of the road with her newly delivered baby in her arms.

Family members had assisted Theresa as she gave birth in the middle of the night without medical instruments, lighting or health professionals.

Like so many mothers in remote villages in Papua New Guinea, Theresa’s journey to the closest health clinic proved too long.

She started walking at about 5pm after preparing dinner for her six children and leaving them with her mother.

Earlier in the day Theresa had experienced cramps and remembered the nurse at Waima Health Clinic had advised her to deliver at the health centre.

This was her seventh pregnancy and the nurse had advised Theresa that she was a high-risk mother and might have some complications if she delivered her baby at home. 

Despite her preparations, Theresa knew she would not make it to the clinic that night. She stopped at her sister’s house, hoping to stay for the night before continuing the walk the following morning.

“Although the cramps had become stronger, I thought I could make it through the night,” Theresa says.

“I was going into my eighth month, so I didn’t think I would give birth yet. But after a while I couldn’t take the pain any longer and I told my husband and sister to take me to Waima.”

How ChildFund’s delivery kits helped keep Theresa safe

Her brother-in-law rushed ahead to the clinic, where ChildFund staff and nurses from a nearby regional health centre were asleep following a day doing community outreach programs in remote villages.

The clinic was stocked with delivery kits donated by ChildFund donors. Nurses Fabianna and Mary grabbed these before leaving the centre in search of Theresa.

“When we arrived it was dark, so the driver reversed the vehicle into the bush and we used the light from the truck,” says Fabianna.

“Theresa had already given birth so we assisted her to deliver the placenta and cleaned her and her baby.”

These delivery kits contain a plastic ground sheet to give birth on, soap to wash hands, gauze to wipe a newborn babies’ eyes, and a sterilised blade to cut the umbilical cord.

These reduce the risks of infection and possible death for both mother and child.

Seven births, none at a health clinic

ChildFund Papua New Guinea encourages all mothers to go to health clinics where they can give birth with the assistance of skilled birth attendants but many mothers here do not have the opportunity.

None of Theresa’s babies have been born at a health clinic.

Her first-born son, now 12 years old, was born on the road while Theresa was walking to a health centre. She gave birth to her five other children at home in a small hut built away from the family home, which is the tradition in her part of Papua New Guinea.

Theresa’s mother assisted her with the deliveries, using a razor blade they had bought at the roadside market to cut the umbilical cords.

How ChildFund is helping reduce deaths in childbirth

ChildFund and its partners are working to improve health centres in remote villages of Papua New Guinea.

In 2018, ChildFund installed a solar fridge and solar panels at the Waima Health Clinic so vaccinations could be stored. Theresa and her baby were immunised using vaccines stored here.

Improving health clinics is crucial to improving Papua New Guinea’s shocking rates of deaths in childbirth, but it is not the only solution.

Many mothers like Theresa are unable to make it to a health clinic because they live too far away, and in remote villages cars are extremely rare.

Mary says mothers who give birth at home are more likely to die from preventable causes, such as haemorrhaging.

“A lot of mothers who give birth at home suffer from haemorrhage so we had to reach Theresa quickly to save her and her baby,” Mary says.

“We wouldn’t have done it without the ‘delivery kit’ and support we continue to get from partners like ChildFund.”

Fabianna said the delivery kits save lives when mothers cannot make it to the clinic.

“Everything needed for the mother and baby are packed in the delivery kit so it’s easy to just pick up the kit and run during emergencies,” she says.

Theresa and her baby at Waima Health Clinic
Theresa and her baby are now healthy and happy after a harrowing birth.

What were you afraid of, all those years ago, when you were just a little child? 

Children are known to develop fears or phobias during their childhood. In younger children, around two to three years of age, this can be prompted by things that make loud noises, or when their routine and environment is disturbed. 

Five-year-old’s will be more imaginative and develop fears of paranormal and hidden threats, such as monsters under the bed or hiding in the wardrobe. 

The fears of older children, however, are often grounded in reality. They are mature enough to comprehend the threatening nature of storms, fire and other natural dangers. 

In developed countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America most children will feel fear, at some point in their childhood. What they’re afraid of, however, usually can’t hurt them in the way they imagine. 

For children in developing countries it’s a very different story. In countries like Zambia, Kenya and Cambodia, young people face very real dangers. Many children live in fear of much more than the dark or any imaginary monsters.

Below we take a look at the three most common childhood fears for children around the world.

1. Fear of the Dark

Think back to when you were younger, lying in your bed after the lights were turned out. To a child, walls can seem endless in the shadow of night. Did your familiar bedroom transform into a wilderness, full of shapes and sizes that you couldn’t recognise or explain? 

Being afraid of the dark is very common among young children. According to a study by onlineclock, it is most prevalent in children between the ages of four and six, but can affect children up to the age of nine and even older. 

The night is full of mysterious sounds and shapes, and children rely on their imagination to fill in the gaps and explain what they think they’ve seen or heard. 
For many children in developing countries, being in the dark is not something that can be easily fixed with the flick of a switch and is more than just a time where children’s imaginations can go wild. It can pose a real threat to children’s lives.

In many disadvantaged communities there is a lack of electricity or a reliable source of power, meaning children and families often use kerosene lamps to cook, clean and study. One of the major dangers of kerosene lamps is they can cause fires and explosions.

In communities without access to electricity or other sources of light, the darkness can be a threat to a child’s future; they are unable to study, read a book or complete their homework. They are unable to finish their education and break the cycle of poverty that has affected their family for generations.

In villages without proper sanitation, children’s safety is at risk because they need to venture outside into the darkness, sometimes far from their homes, to go to the toilet.

2. Fear of thunder and lightning

Loud cracks of thunder and flashes of lightning can unsettle young children, making them feel terrified and anxious. 

For most children, their fear ends when the storm passes.

A child in a developing country, however, has much more to fear during a storm, and even more so if a severe weather event strikes. In communities dependent upon agriculture, the weather can decide the fortunes of entire families.

In parts of Asia, the annual monsoon, typhoon and cyclone season can devastate entire communities, leaving children and their families without homes or possessions. 

In Africa, droughts in farming communities leads to poor crop yields, livestock perishing, and soaring food prices.  Children are the most vulnerable in these situations as they face a great risk of becoming malnourished. 

3. Fear of wildlife

Often children from a young age learn which creatures are harmful, and this fear is often taught by their parents. The usually unattractive appearance of these creatures – including beady eyes, multiple legs and large teeth  – are also pretty scary!

Animals that children around the world most commonly fear include

  • Spiders
  • Dogs
  • Crocodiles
  • Bees and wasps
  • Snakes

In Australia, we usually have a can of bug spray under the sink as a household rule, ready to ward off flies and mosquitos. If a spider bite were to occur, treatment can be provided at the local hospital. 

Children living in developing countries also fear a range of wildlife, however do not have a can of bug spray handy and have limited access to healthcare services. Many wildlife in developing communities, particularly in rural areas, also carry infectious diseases. 

Mosquitoes, which mostly strike at night while children are sleeping, can be life threatening to newborns and infants. 

Mosquito bites notoriously spread:

  • Malaria
  • Dengue
  • Yellow fever

Children living in poverty often lack strong immune systems because of  poor nutrition, and the harm caused by any form of wildlife they encounter can be deadly. 

You can help children live fearlessly

Childhood is a time to live fearlessly. Join us in helping the children most in need in the world live fearless lives. Why? Because every child needs a childhood. Donate now!