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Hammocks as a low-tech transport method to save mothers in the Philippines

Hammocks as a low-tech transport method to save mothers in the Philippines

Transport of women in labor is one of the 'three delays' that often cost women their lives. In more remote areas of the Philippines with mountainous terrain and rural villages maternal mortality is much higher than the national average. Simple hammocks strung from a bamboo pole are part of an approach that is making a difference in a first-of-its-kind project in Ifugao, The Philippines. The ayod is a traditional Philippine transport hammock for sick people that actually looks like about as comfortable a way to travel over mountainous terrain as one could find short of a helicopter.

The IRIN reports on the formalization of the [ ayod transport system in one area of the Philippines] resulting in 185 community teams charged with being on hand in the event of a maternal emergency. The Governor of Ifugao made community based teams part of an official decree. Two male volunteers carry a woman in labor in the ayod, or hammock, taking turns with others and with two female volunteers ensuring that the woman has water to drink.

The project is funded by JICA-MCH, UNFPA and others and represents a [ truly community-based approach with the very concrete involvement of male volunteers]. From the accounts we were able to find, it appears that the hammock has always been a mode of transport, but that the organization and governmental commitment to community based teams around transporting women was part of the novelty in this approach. In addition, as in many places trying to reach MDG5, there is a huge push to bring births into the facility. In this project there are reports that facility based births doubled in just five years. In addition, in another 2010 news article Ifugao Town reported [ no maternal deaths since the start of the project in 2006].

The ayod story in Ifugao is a great tale of a technology that had always been there, but combined with new political will and organization of community teams-- appears to be making it safer for women giving birth.

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