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Unsafe motherhood

For poor women in Indonesia, giving birth can be a life-threatening experience

Andrew Rosser

The cover of Eko Prasetyo’s book, Poor People Are Forbidden to be Sick, captures well the challenge that poor people in Indonesia face in gaining access to health care

In late November last year, according to online news service Okezone, a poor woman named Yusleni arrived at Banda Aceh Women and Children’s Hospital to give birth to her second child. She was admitted to the emergency room and given an infusion. While in the emergency room, her husband completed the necessary paperwork to register her and arrange for the birth to be covered by Jamkesmas, a national health insurance scheme for poor people that pays hospitals a much lower rate than they are able to charge other patients. About an hour later, a hospital medical officer advised them that there were no beds available and that they would have to look for another maternity hospital. With Yusleni in advanced labour, she and her sister hailed a becak and, in the middle of the night, started looking for a local midwife to deliver the baby. Barely 300 metres down the road they were forced to turn back after her sister noticed that the baby’s head was already visible. This time the hospital found her a bed in the emergency room, and took care of the remainder of the delivery. Yusleni survived the

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