Press Release

Lao midwife's story 2: My job teaches me humanity everyday

6 May 2020

My name is Lotchana Nonpasith. I am 41 and I am from Dongdumduan Village, Kaysone District, Savannakhet Province in Lao PDR.  I have been a midwife for almost 16 years now.

I enjoy the job I am doing. As a woman who gave birth and became a mother, I love to see women healthy and give birth to quality services. In the past, I had a bad experience, I had premature delivery and my baby has a disability, so I do not want this to happen to other babies. This hard situation gave me the strength and determination to see and achieve quality services for pregnant women and infants care.

With tis passion I have for my job and my family, I try to separate working time and personal life, but, honestly, I do not do it really well. I mean I pay attention more to my work. I spend more time working than in the family. but, I try to figure out how to balance both. I am aware I am a health worker, a wife, and a mother: what a privilege to be that important but also what a hard duty to make sure I do fulfill them all.

With the charge of work expanding by COVID-19, I do extra efforts to finish my work on time, so that I can go back home to help my children do homework, do myself some housework. This epidemic gives extra work to women. During weekends, I try to enjoy nature. I cultivate and domesticate animals.

I observed the increase of the COVID-19 epidemic in the world and I knew I had to take actions, like to finish my teaching in hurry to equip students with knowledge and lessons. We collected scores on weekends as well as weekdays. We knew that schools were going to close and everything was about to be postponed. We had to complete all the work before the lockdown. We created a database with students’ phone numbers to facilitate coordination with them in case we needed to contact them to assist health workers in the scenario of a big epidemic impact and lack of workforce.

At the same time, I had to take personal measures to protect myself and my family before heading to the border where I work. My family preferred to ensure nutrition on what we could get from domestic animals and cultivation in our farm for sustaining food, particularly in lockdown situations. I asked my kids not to go out at all especially that I was far from them as the working conditions changed. When we finished work at the checkpoint at the border bridge, we had to go to the particular places instead of our homes in order to isolate ourselves and not spread the virus in case of eventual contamination.

At work, those new conditions could only strengthen our support to each other. We went to help other workers and sometimes I also volunteered to relieve them because there were many immigrants traveling back home to Laos. They were around thousands per day. I didn’t hesitate to go and support others because I am worried for my country and for my colleagues. They are like my family members. So, I had to help. It was the least I could do.

Especially, that During COVID-19 most of us were women. We had to stand by each other. In my unit, we were 30 women and only 5 men. At the borders, we worked as a team even though we had never known each other before. We always helped and ate together. For example, if there were too many patients for one health worker to handle, we assist that worker immediately. Moreover, when they provided us food, we preferred to give it to migrants first and if there is not enough for us, we would buy for ourselves instead. As we worked as a team, we became as one and knew each other more and more.

As a health worker, I lead by example to spread prevention measures. I followed the order to stay at home and not go out so that the villagers see us as models and stay at home as well. While working at the border, I always reminded people to wash hands before eating, to not stay too close to each other, and if they feel unwell, they have to go to the hospital which is free of cost. In my village, I also spread the information: If you are safe, others will be safe too. If you spread, it will spread everywhere. It will affect everyone, not only one.

COVID-19 makes me sad and worried because I hear and see people complaining about the economy getting worse. Many do not even have food to eat. I know it is not only in Laos but in other countries also. We need to go through this together. Around the village, we share and exchange what we have together with my relatives. I encourage solidarity to reduce this impact and to combat stress and anxiety. We should care about each other, especially the most vulnerable.

For example for us, as midwives, we give extra care to pregnant women, we collect their phone numbers in order to be prepared to help when they feel sick. I had a chance to talk with some pregnant women in my village. They said that they are scared. I tried to comfort them and show them how to avoid risks. This virus is more dangerous than the actual war because we cannot see our opponents.  As health workers, we are afraid too, but if we do not protect, there is no one who can help us. We are frontline. This is our responsibility. So, the population has also to assume its responsibility by staying safe.

Besides all this pressure, I can say that I am satisfied and proud because my students are just like my children and I am glad that they can help and assume this role.

Knowledge is important. My hope for midwifery is to have master’s degree schools in Laos for like we have for other fields of study. I want midwifery to acquire more quality and to be a discipline considered and respected as one of the doctors. And I wish that when students graduate, they will be supported to work as midwives and not take other responsibilities that do not match their studies. 

Even though Laos is out of COVID during this time, we are still worried if there will be vaccines for this virus or not and when. Will there be a second wave of COVID-19? We will continue to monitor, watch out, and prepare measures until we get done with this pandemic.

There may be between  330,000 -368,000 unplanned pregnancies in Laos during 2020-21. This number is impacted by COVID 19.  Midwives help deliver contraceptives and save women's lives through safe deliveries. The Ministry of Health is increasing the investments in the Lao Midwifery workforce with UNFPA support.

 

All images credit: UNFPA Lao PDR

UNFPA, the UN's sexual and reproductive health agency, works in Lao PDR and over 150 other countries globally to achieve zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and zero gender-based violence and other harmful practices against women and girls - a vision enshrined in the Programme of Action stemming from the landmark 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

To learn more about our response to COVID-19, visit www.unfpa.org/covid19

To support our lifesaving work amid the pandemic, visit https://donate.unfpa.org/th-en/covid-19