( MONEY ) - My name is Lotchana Nonpasith. I am 41 and I am from Dongdumduan village, Kaysone Phomvihane district, Savanakhet province. I have been a midwife for almost 16 years now.
I enjoy the job I am doing. As a woman who gave births and became a mother, I love to see women healthy and giving birth with quality services. In the past, I had a bad experience, I had premature delivery and my baby was disabled, so I do not want this to happen to other babies. This hard situation gave me strength and determination to see and achieve quality services for pregnant women and infants care.
With this passion I have for my job and my family, I try to separate working time and personal life, but, honestly I do not do it really well. I mean I pay attention more at my work. I spend more time working than in the family. But, I try to figure out how to balance both. I am aware I am a health worker, a wife, and a mother: what a privilege to be that important but also what a hard duty to make sure I do fulfill them all.
With the charge of work expanding by COVID-19, I make extra efforts to finish my work on time, so that I can go home to help my children do homework, do myself some housework. This epidemic gives extra work to women. During weekends, I try to enjoy nature. I cultivate and domesticate animals.
I observed the increase of the COVID-19 epidemic in the world and I knew I had to take actions, like to finish my teaching in hurry to equip students with knowledge and lessons. We collected scores on weekends as well as weekdays. We knew that schools were going to close and everything was about to be postponed. We had to complete all the work before the lockdown. We created a database with students’ phone numbers to facilitate coordination with them in case we needed to contact them to assist health workers in scenario of a big epidemic impact and lack of workforce.
At the same time, I had to take personal measures to protect myself and my family before heading to border where I work. My family preferred to ensure nutrition on what we could get from domestic animals and cultivation in our farm for sustaining food particularly in lockdown situation. I asked my kids not to go out at all especially that I was far from them as the working conditions changed. When we finished work at the checkpoint at the 2nd Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge (spanning the Mekong between Savannakhet and Thailand’s Mukdahan), we had to go to the particular places instead of our homes in order to isolate ourselves and not spread the virus in case of eventual contamination.
At work, those new conditions could only strengthen our support to each other. We went to help other workers and sometimes I also volunteered to relief them because there were many immigrants travelling back home to Laos. They were around thousands per day. I didn’t hesitate to go and support others because I am worried for my country and for my colleagues. They are like my family members. So, I had to help. It was the least I could do.
Especially, that During COVID-19 most of us were women. We had to stand by each other. In my unit there were 30 women and only 5 men. At the border, we worked as a team even though we had never known each other before. We always helped and ate together. For example, if there were too many patients for one health worker to handle, we assisted that worker immediately. Moreover, when they provided us food, we preferred to give it to migrants first and if there was not enough for us, we would buy for ourselves instead. As we worked as a team, we became as one and knew each other more and more.
As a health worker, I led by example to spread preventive measures. I followed the order to stay at home and not go out so that the villagers saw us as a model and stayed at home as well. While working at the border, I always reminded people to wash hands before eating, to not stay too close to each other, and if they feel unwell, they have to go to hospital which is free of charge. In my village, I also spread the information: If you are safe, others will be safe too. If you spread, it will spread everywhere. It will affect everyone, not only one.
COVID-19 makes me sad and worried because I hear and see people complaining about the economy getting bad. Many do not even have food to eat. I know it is not only in Laos, but in other countries as well. We need to go through this together. Around the village, we share and exchange what we have together with my relatives. I encourage solidarity to reduce this impact and to combat stress and anxiety. We should care about each other, especially the most vulnerable.
For example for us, as midwives, we give extra care to pregnant women, we collect their phone numbers in order to be prepared to help when they feel sick. I had a chance to talk with some pregnant women in my village. They said that they are scared. I tried to comfort them and show them how to avoid risks. This virus is more dangerous than the actual war because we cannot see our opponents. As health workers, we are afraid too, but if we do not protect, there is no one who can help us. We are frontline. This is our responsibility. So, the population has also to assume its responsibility by staying safe.
Beside all this pressure, I can say that I am satisfied and proud, because my students are just like my children and I am glad that they can help and assume this role.
Knowledge is important. My hope for midwifery is to have master’s degree schools in Laos for like we have for other fields of studies. I want midwifery to be of greater quality and to be a discipline considered and respected as the one of doctors. And I wish that when students graduate, they will be supported to work as midwives and not take other responsibilities that are not related to what they have learned.
Even though Laos is out of COVID during this time, we are still worried whether there will be vaccines for this virus and when. Will there be a second wave of COVID-19? We will continue to monitor, watch out and prepare measures until we are done with this pandemic.
There may be between 330,000 -368,000 unplanned pregnancies in Laos during 2020-21. This number is impacted by Covid 19. Midwives help deliver contraceptives and save women's lives through safe deliveries. The Ministry of Health is increasing the investments in the Lao Midwifery workforce with UNFPA support.