TEKST: HASAN MERALI, MD, MPH // PHOTO: BRYAN WATT
Since 2011, the best part of my year has been volunteering with the staff at TLC in Cambodia. TLC has come a long way in just 4 years from the slow and steady “Charming Duckling” boat and sleeping outdoors in the villages, to the sleek and quick TLC-4 boat and the luxurious floating clinics with showers and electricity!
As a pediatrician, the statistic that strikes me the most in rural Cambodia is the neonatal mortality rate which is unacceptably high. One of the main reasons that so many infants die in the first few minutes of life is that they are born outside of health centers and do not receive adequate resuscitation when they need it the most. Along with the staff at TLC, we are trying to change that.
To start, I first qualified as a Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) Master Trainer. The HBB program provides neonatal resuscitation skills to rural healthcare workers. In 2013, Jon and I applied for, and were awarded, a three year International Community Access to Child Health grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics for our project: Implementing Helping BabiesBreathe in Remote Floating Villages. This grant will provide us enough funds to purchase the required teaching materials and resuscitation equipment for all of the village health volunteers in the region who we plan to train.
The first year of the grant was last year and during my trip I was able to train all of the TLC staff and get ideas on how to tailor the program to rural health providers in Cambodia. Earlier this year, I returned to Cambodia to implement the program in the floating villages. Kolyan, one of TLC’s midwives, has a gift for teaching and is now the team leader for the project.
Together we were able to co-teach training sessions in Peam Bang and Pech Chakrey. Kolyan, Sreynat (midwife) and several other staff are now teaching the course and delivering the equipment to other villages that TLC serves. Our goal over the coming year is to provide equipment and training to all of the midwives and village health volunteers involved in deliveries, especially to those providers involved in homebirths. The equipment is completely reusable and we hope that with this project, we will be able to make a significant impact on neonatal mortality in the region.