|My view from the ferry|
I woke up at 6 am, right when the alarm went off. I put on my UNICEF T-shirt and took my time preparing what to bring for the whole day. We had a really nice breakfast with “Hu Tiu” – a type of noodles from the south of Vietnam. I was handed a few documents about breastfeeding and the situation in An Giang.
We got on a car and ready to go to Phu Tan district to visit the whole project about breastfeeding there at around 8 am. On the way, as I flipped through the pages, I noticed an interesting thing which I didn’t know: to be considered as healthy and be able to give birth to a healthy child, the mother should have a body mass index of at least 18.5. Children who have mothers with low BMI are having more chances to be stunting. This is how you calculate your body mass index: take your weight (kg) divided to the square of your height (in meter). So, as I was excited about the little new thing I’ve just learnt, I asked and we started to calculate the BMI of everyone in the van. Mine was 17.8. I’m a little underweight.
It’s 70km from the center of An Giang to Phu Tan and we had to pass a river to get there. We had to get on a ferry to cross the river. That was the first time I got on a ferry. It’s a big one where the cars and the motorbikes traveled with you, enjoying the time on the ferry with you. Our car was lucky, I hope it was happy! I got off the car and took photos. I saw people selling lottery tickets, strange snacks, and people who were just sitting on their motorbikes waiting to get to the other side. They all have that tanned skin tone and the accent from the south. We were wearing our blue UNICEF T-shirts so everyone looked at us as if we were aliens. I guess they were asking in their heads: who are these people? The only thing they knew for sure is we were not from An Giang.
|My lottery ticket from An Giang|
Later we went to the health center in Binh Thanh Dong commune where we met the core mothers and listened to health workers talking about the project. They explained that the program started in June 2009 when only few mothers breastfed. Now, the rate is 27% and 70% mothers have knowledge about breastfeeding.
The health workers provide trainings for core mothers from the commune, later the core mothers run group meetings and visit families to help them understand breastfeeding better. One of the core mothers, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Phuong, 29, said: “I used to breastfeed my son successfully, so I was asked to be a core mother. I received training and shared my knowledge with other mothers in the commune. I’m really happy when I see new mothers listening to me and breastfeeding their children successfully. That’s why I want to keep doing this.”
|Phuong – one of the core mothers in a group meeting with mothers in the commune|
We’ve met the very lucky mothers who had no troubles in breastfeeding their children. However there are still many other who have difficulties like: the work does not allow her to spend more time to breastfeed, it hurts so much when the babies suck, or they don’t have enough breast milk for the babies, etc. Dr Quang, our nutrition expert told us a story of his own. His wife gave birth to his son 2 months premature and at that time the baby was kept in a separate room. She lost her breast milk and thought that it would be impossible to breastfeed her baby. However as Dr Quang encouraged her to keep trying to let the baby suck the nipples every day, finally the breast milk came back. It’s difficult sometimes, but I see that as long as the mothers don’t give up on breastfeeding her babies, everything is going to be fine.
The morning mission was done. We stopped to eat. More work to be done in the afternoon…
Author: Nguyen Huong Ly