“I saw deaths that should have been completely preventable,” says Elevate Prize Winner, Dr Aparna Hegde of her Obstetrics and Gynecology residency in Mumbai, which opened her eyes to the issue of maternal and infant mortality. “I saw how pervasive systemic problems led to loss of lives. And it was absolutely unacceptable to me.”
That’s where the idea for ARMMAN was born – and Aparna can pinpoint to-the-day when she first determined to create the organization.
“It was 1:00 am and I was called to the emergency room to examine Aruna, a 25 year old with gestational diabetes, having her first baby. She had been transferred from Thane civil hospital with her baby’s head delivered, but the body stuck inside, as it was too large to pass through. Her death will forever stay with me. Not only because she died a most horrible death, but also because it was preventable… She had gone for her first antenatal visit but she had not been counseled about the remaining visits, danger signs, and potential complications. If only she had been.”
ARMMAN uses technology to improve access to health information and services, along with training health workers to reduce maternal and child mortality.
In partnership with the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the organization is implementing the largest mobile messaging and training platform in the world, reaching over 23 million women and 173,000 health workers.
“When you read the numbers about maternal or infant mortality, they can seem abstract,” says Aparna. India has 9% of global maternal deaths, with 26,437 deaths every year. “The numbers can’t tell you what that really means for a mother or a child. But when you experience the stories behind those numbers, they are life-changing – for me at least. I have been an activist since my childhood, so how could I not act?”
How you can help.