Internationally renowned midwife and founder of Yayasan Bumi Sehat, Robin Lim provides services to expectant mothers and their children, as well as disaster relief, and educational programs. Robin Lim is originally from the United States and resides in Bali. She recently returned from Dulag, the Philippines, where Bumi Sehat and Wadah Foundation have established a clinic, providing disaster relief for the thousands still affected by Typhoon Yolanda.
You went to Sumatra after the tsunami, and Haiti after the earthquake. You have been in the Philippines since the typhoon of November 8th, 2013 and are returning to Dulag where you have established a clinic. Tell me about the crisis there.
On November 8, 2013, 300 to 350 kilometre-per-hour winds and 10 to 14 metre waves surged through the Visayan Islands leaving tens of thousands dead and millions injured, homeless, displaced, and starving. Still, three months after the disaster, few have electricity or any form of light, there is no running water, and the people live in the remains of shacks. Poor before the storm, famers lost their crops, fishermen lost their boats and those who work in coconut trade lost 80 to 90% of the precious trees. Livelihood is lost, but not hope, as the people of the Central Philippines clean up the mess, and pick up the pieces of their lives. In the Wary-Wary language they say, “Tindog Philippines!” (Rise up Philippines!).
In the heart of the Typhoon Haiyan disaster zone, Wadah Foundation in partnership with Bumi Sehat Foundation is operating a medical relief camp and childbirth manger. In the aftermath of this storm, Wadah extended its healing hand, beginning in November 2013, by supporting the delivery of boatloads of food, water filters, family buckets, tarps, tools, solar lights and medicines to the underserved areas of devastation.
The U.N. estimates 3.6 million of the affected are reproductive-age females, with over 95,000 women pregnant and at least 15% expected to have complications of childbirth. These are statistics, but the truth is, the degree of devastation and desperation that is present here is immeasurable. This is why Wadah/Bumi Sehat’s efforts are focused on pregnant, birthing, postpartum women, babies, children and families. When disaster strikes, babies still must be born, even if the mother is homeless, unhealthy, thirsty and hungry.
In November 2013, Wadah/Bumi assisted Mercy in Action as they established a Medical Relief and Childbirth camp in Dulag. In January of 2014 Wadah/Bumi took over full responsibility for the operation and staffing of this essential community outreach.
These are the miracles so far:
– Prenatal visits: Over 1,000
– Babies born in our maternity tent: 240
– Postpartum care for mothers and babies: Over 500
– Postpartum home visits and ambulance transport home: Over 100
– Primary healthcare including free medicines: Over 3,500
– Wound care: Over 260
– Numbers receiving high quality supplemental foods like “Plumpy Sup” from WFP and food bars (from Direct Relief International, Carmans and One Health Org.): Over 35,000
Last night we received four new babies in the humble birth tent. Yesterday four babies were born, and at the moment there are three mothers in labour. The rural and municipal health centres are in ruins, so they send their patients to us. The postpartum mothers at the Wadah/Bumi Childbirth Manger have only cots to rest upon. Some nights every cot is full, and the staff give up their own tent to shelter the families, because there is always room at this inn. We may be humbly camped as we are in the remains of the San Jose elementary school, but lives are saved here, and hope is restored for mothers who would have no place at all to have their babies and seek medical care. Some of our babies have been stillborn, but by grace and the miracle of neonatal resuscitation, all of the babies have made it.
Twins, breech and premature babies have made it, against all odds. Mothers in the aftermath of disasters suffer from malnutrition and post traumatic stress disorder, which causes extreme hypertension, needing special care; The Wadah/Bumi midwives, doctors and nurses are on the job. Some mothers haemorrhage; the Wadah/Bumi medical team is skilled and ready. We are open 24/7. Though we have undependable electricity, we have our Solar Suitcase from We Care Solar. We have no running water, but we have buckets and strong arms to carry water. As a team we are tired from working day and night, but we feel so blessed to be called to serve and be part of the healing of the Philippines.
What educational programs does Bumi Sehat provide in Indonesia?
Bumi Sehat Aceh now has a Youth Centre that provides free computer and English courses for teens, as well as sports. Bumi Sehat Bali also has had, for the last 10 years, free computer beginning and advanced courses, free English language course, organic gardening, and sometimes music. We are very proud of the scholarship program. Young girls from the poorest families, with the dream of becoming a midwife, a teacher or a nurse, may be sponsored by Bumi Sehat for their tuition, room, board, uniforms, books, transportation, complete so that they can successfully achieve advanced degrees in the service professions they are called to.
Tell us about the role of midwifery and more natural, gentle birthing techniques in our world today.
Each day on planet earth over 800 women, in the prime of their lives, dies from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Many of these women die because they have no access to a skilled birth attendant. For the not-so-wealthy people of the world, midwifery care is usually much more available and affordable. The woman to woman care model really does save lives.
Women of all cultures deserve loving, kind, gentle care for their reproductive health needs. The women on the front of this lovely culturally appropriate model of care are the midwives.
You are married and have eight children. How do you maintain all these different aspects of your life?
The hormone oxytocin is the hormone of LOVE. I am surrounded by oxytocin day and night; in the birth rooms in Bali and in Aceh, in the birth tent in the Philippines where now over 250 babies have been born. I LOVE my work. My family is super supportive and loving, they keep me strong, and they keep me going.
You are returning to Dulag, Philippines later this month. Will that be the next permanent Bumi Sehat clinic?
Yes, the need is there; in the aftermath of the biggest storm to make landfall in human history, Bumi Sehat’s donors, sponsors, people like our readers, who care and give whatever they can are behind the Bumi/Wadah Medical Relief and Childbirth Camp in Dulag. The Rotary Tacloban is willing to build us a permanent clinic. So, away we go.
The tsunami in Aceh was the most catastrophic disaster, in terms of human deaths, in one day in history. Bumi Sehat is the last NGO in our area, North of Meulaboh. We just had our 9th year anniversary. This tells me that our donors really do believe that community-based healthcare is a human right.
How can we support Bumi Sehat in all the work it is doing?
Bumi Sehat is super grassroots, and we can assure you that we will use your hard-earned donations as wisely as possible, to directly help people. Be it keeping a poor young woman in school or providing essential free medical care, we do our best, and we do it with LOVE. Team Bumi Sehat believes that we are the hands in the field, doing this wonderful work. You donors are the HEART; without you, we can do no service, we need you to nourish our projects.
Please visit Bumi Sehat online: http://www.bumisehatfoundation.org/
The link to donate directly to our efforts in the Philippines is: