By Tran Van Thang, CWS Project Officer.
Giang Thi Dinh, 35, is the mother of two young children in Nam Mo village, which is quite difficult to reach even though it is just 25 km (≈15 miles) from the district town. This is because the dirt road that winds through the mountains to Nam Mo is in poor condition, especially during northern Vietnam’s long rainy season – when it turns to mud and is especially dangerous. So, one of the most serious problems with Nam Mo families’ isolation is that they are too poor to pay for transportation down to the nearby town – even when the road is not muddy and dangerous. So, Dinh’s family and many others never go to the district Health Center for check-ups, even when someone is sick.
For example, some months ago, Dinh’s 5-year old son had a severe toothache and gum bleeding. He had difficult eating anything, and he could not eat anything but soft foods. And, he was in a lot of pain, but Dinh did not know how to help him. Fortunately, Dinh heard from the village leader that a group from Health Center was being supported by CWS to travel to Nam Mo for check-ups and consultations. So, even though the family would feel her absence, she decided to take a day off from working in the field to make sure her boy got care for his teeth and gums – and for his pain. The visiting physician, Doctor Hoa, examined the boy and explained to Dinh what her son’s pain was from the normal process of losing his ‘baby teeth’. But it seemed the new teeth were coming in very slowly, so Dr. Hoa recommended that the boy come to Health Center for further treatment.
Seeing Dr. Hoa a week later, I learned that Dinh did bring her son to the Health Center – and that it was the first time in his life that he had been there. But, now that she has had a good result for her son, Dinh says she will never wait so long again to make the effort to go to the clinic when her children are in clear need of skilled health care. This may seem like it was an obvious choice for Dinh to make; but, honestly, given the socioeconomic, cultural and physical isolation of her Mong people, I was glad to learn that she had the courage to go against customary ways and seek modern health care for her son. Hopefully, she will be a role model for others, and more modern health care, even though it is quite basic, can help Dinh and her family and friends have a better, healthier life.
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