Thursday, October 02, 2008

Grandmother Lau Lien Tie and the Mobile Maternity and Child Health Care Clinic

This photo was taken in 1953 several years before my third aunt(middle at the back) passed away. This is a complete family photo of all my mother's sisters with grandmother Lau Lien Tie. My grandmother was seated in the front. A black and white photograph by my father. The background is the extension kitchen of the Lau Kah Chui House at Sg. Maaw.


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This is a photo of a mobile Health Clinic operating in the Baram in 1962 or thereabout. Note the enamel basin which was ubiquitous in those days. Source : Sarawak Annual Report 1962.

In the early sixties the Sarawak Health Department was busy with expansion policies. Fanned by the fervent United Nations' spirit to bring about general good health to mothers and children the Sarawak Government was no less active in this new awareness.
(*Ref: United Nations' Declaration of Universal Human Rights 1953)

Sarawak's attempts to bring about good health to all was laudable . Mobile clinics were set up and homes were identified for health demonstrations. Even the Agriculture Department had a special Home Demonstration Section.

My grandmother's house in Sg. Maaw was selected to be a centre for the monthly Maternity and Child Care Clinic. Grandmother's house has a very big living room and there was plenty of space for mothers to sit and even rest. We also had a big jetty for boats to berth. It was a merry day when the Sarawak Medical Team arrived early in the morning. Some of the women even warmed their food in my grandmother's kitchen.

Mothers both Foochows and Ibans would already have gathered around with their crying babies. Some husbands also came as they had plenty of time in their hands. A day of not tapping rubber was quite alright then.

It was amazing to see all those scalpels and kidney shaped bowls. I often wondered how many of the little girls who came with their mothers became nurses after meeting the smartly dressed nurses of that time in Sg. Maaw.

The education provided by the nurses were very appropriate. I learned about baby's diet even then.My aunts learned about better health care. They loved the vitamins given free to expectant mothers.

Sometimes we asked for calcium tablets for our grandmother even though at that time we did not know that calcium was good for our bones. We were terrified of the injections and syringes. Strange though it may be to most people today we also learned about a liver injection which would give all women good blood !(Actually it was iron for those who were anemic. But we called that liver injection and many women would ask for it if they were too pale or too weak.)

Although most babies were breast fed at that time it was also a time when condensed milk was used as a staple for children. Probably that explained why so many children of my age had to have dentures by the time they were fifteen.

The nurses gave out free milk powder in plastic packets which I believe came from the UN. I cannot remember exactly the type of milk powder given but it could have been skimmed milk too.

Many of the mothers complained that the free milk powder caused diarrhoea and the babies kept on crying.

I liked the idea of free milk though as I was given a few packets. At a tender age a free gift was heavenly. My cousins and I even ate the milk powder straight from the packet with our Chinese spoons!!

Sometimes my aunts would receive a few extra packets because our grandmother was giving the government free space. Besides my grandmother always had a chicken ready for the nurses.

My cousin remembers that sometimes the milk powder turned hard because we did not have air tight containers. So the pigs had some of the free milk as well. But she had most of free milk which was given to her baby brother. She said that recently she had a fall and the doctor was amazed that she did not break any of her bones at her age. She attributed her strong bones to the free milk she had. We had a good laugh. Grandmother had done something good for us!!

And then we also heard that some of the women did not know exactly how to make the correct milk mixture for their babies. So they gave up on the milk powder and gave it to their chickens. They returned to breastfeeding their babies. Some mothers breastfed their children until they were four or five!!

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