Community labour delivers new maternity ward for Mawanella
By Esther Williams
The community's efforts had paid off. Mawanella Base Hospital now has a new maternity unit that was inaugurated by First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa on Wednesday.

This township hit the news in May 2001 for violent communal clashes between the Sinhalese and Muslims, but the fact that the very same people have united to work in solidarity for this much needed maternity unit is heartwarming. What better cause than an institution of healing that would cater to a population of 300,000 of the Sabaragamuwa province?

It all began when Consultant Gynaecologist, Dr. M. Nawaz Jiffry was posted to the Mawanella Base Hospital two years ago. He was appalled to see the poor conditions of the labour room and the absence of an operation theatre. There was just him and two other doctors to cater to a large number of patients while the difficult cases were sent to the Kegalle Hospital.

Having trained and served in Britain for several years, Dr. Jiffry had been keen to get back to his own country. "I wanted the patients here to have the same quality of care and treatment that was available abroad," he says. Discussions with community leaders and patients led to the formation of the 'MUM (Maternity Unit of Mawanella) Foundation' on May 9, 2004, to coincide with the World Mother's Day.

"We want to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for every mother," says the Foundation's President, General Cyril Ranatunga, former commander of the Joint Operations Headquarters. Most government hospitals cannot provide all facilities together with cleanliness, he adds.

Members of the foundation thereafter began intensive fundraising efforts. Donation tills were kept at temples, mosques and churches; raffle tickets were sold at the hospital, schools and public places and appeals were sent to the business communities. Every little bit was welcome.

Contributions trickled in gradually. organizations like the Lions Club, the Saudi Red Crescent Society and the corporate sector donated cash, equipment and other hospital needs. Interestingly, a few patients made considerable contributions when doctors treating them forfeited their charges.

Former Provincial Council member S.H.M. Jawahir had lost his mother in his infancy and hence had few memories of her. Knowing well the hardships of living without a mother, his contribution was Rs. 1.2 million. "It is in memory of my mother Safiya," he says.

Another significant donation of Rs. 1.5 million came from the Netherlands-Sri Lanka Friendship Foundation (NEDLA). According to Dr. Jiffry, the new unit that accommodates eighty beds has a labour room with the best of facilities, an emergency obstetrics theatre, well-equipped ante-natal and post-natal wards named Safiya and Nedla, a gynaecology ward for women with gynaecological problems and a clinical audit, research and training centre with multimedia facilities for training of medical staff at all levels.

To tackle the increasing number of patients, five additional doctors have been posted to the unit. Walking through the unit, it is evident that the bright and airy wards will make the patients' stay more pleasant. Special efforts have been taken to ensure that the toilet facilities are of high standards.

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