Melania Trump in glitzy Tokyo pearl visit

US First Lady Melania Trump and her Japanese counterpart Akie Abe visit a pearl jewelry maker, in Tokyo on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 05 November 2017
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Melania Trump in glitzy Tokyo pearl visit

TOKYO: While her husband hit the greens, First Lady Melania Trump got a glimpse on Sunday of Japanese cultured pearls at Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza shopping district on the first day of their Asia tour.
Melania was welcomed by Akie Abe, the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at Mikimoto’s flagship pearl shop as part of her cultural programs, while dozens of security guards kept close watch.
The two greeted and kissed each other on the cheek instead of shaking hands or bowing.
Then they went upstairs to a “hidden floor” of the building, reserved for VIPs, to talk over tea and coffee. No details of their discussions were released.
Mikimoto brought in two “ama” divers who traditionally harvest pearls, clad in typical white costumes with big goggles and wooden buckets, to explain pearl farming to the US first lady.
Japan is known for producing especially high-quality pearls.
“Wonderful visit w/ Mrs. Abe today! Enjoyed conversation over tea & the cultural presentation on the history of pearls,” Melania tweeted after the meeting.
One of the divers, 57-year-old Miaki Okumura, told reporters after the two VIPs left the shop: “I was asked how deep the waters we dive are, and how long I can hold my breath.” “I answered that the depth was about five-six meters and I can hold my breath for about 40-50 seconds,” she said, adding that Melania seemed impressed at her endurance.
“She looked like a very kind person and was also very beautiful. Her hands were beautiful and warm when we shook hands.”
The other diver Saki Satonaka, 22, said Melania “congratulated me for my debut as a professional ama diver a month ago.”
“I’ll keep the wonderful memory of today’s event throughout my life,” Satonaka said.


Free bus rides driving safer births for Nepali women

Updated 17 July 2018
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Free bus rides driving safer births for Nepali women

  • The UN Population Fund says giving birth remains a leading killer of women of reproductive age in Nepal
  • A huge obstacle to safe deliveries is the Himalayan nation’s tough terrain, which often makes getting to a health facility a long and expensive journey

RAMECHHAP, Nepal: As a teenager Meera Nepali was terrified as she went into labor with her first child at home in a remote village, miles from a hospital with nobody but her mother-in-law to help.
“I was a scared, but that was the norm. We didn’t have doctors close by,” Nepali said of her three-day labor in Khadadevi village in Nepal’s hilly Ramechhap district.
This year however, she delivered her second child in a rural health center thanks to a small cash incentive that is getting pregnant women to hospital by paying their bus fares.
The Aama Surakshya, or “protection for mothers,” program has helped more than two million Nepali women access medical services in the impoverished country where dying in childbirth remains a very real risk.
The UN Population Fund says giving birth remains a leading killer of women of reproductive age in Nepal, where the risk of dying in childbirth is higher than anywhere else in South Asia except Afghanistan.
A huge obstacle to safe deliveries is the Himalayan nation’s tough terrain, which often makes getting to a health facility a long and expensive journey, as well as the paucity of clinics in many parts of the country.
“We found that one of the main reasons rural women did not go to a hospital during childbirth was because they did not have hard cash to pay for transportation,” said Suresh Tiwari, one of the original architects of the scheme.
The program was started in 2005 with British aid money but has since been taken over by the Nepal government.
Today, it covers not just transport but medical costs for mothers and babies and includes a cash bonus for attending antenatal check-ups.
2017 marked a milestone for the program: more Nepali women opted for hospital births over home deliveries for the first time on record, official figures show.
“The free service and transport incentive have been very effective in bringing women to health centers and hospitals where they can be saved in the case of complications,” said Tara Nath Pokharel, head of the government’s Family Health Division, which now runs the program.
Nepali, one of the beneficiaries, paid nothing for her three-day stay at a clinic in Ramechhap district, east of Katmandu, in January.
She was discharged with 1,000 rupees ($9) for transport plus a 400 rupee bonus for attending four antenatal appointments.
“I returned home in an ambulance. We hardly had to spend anything. I am really grateful for this facility,” Nepali said, cradling her young son in her arms.
The scheme is also saving lives outside the maternity wards, in part by tackling cultural obstacles.
Deeply patriarchal attitudes and traditional preferences for home births also see hospital visits dismissed as an unnecessary expense for poor families.
Sita Khatri went into labor weeks before her due date and, unable to walk the three hours to the nearest health center, gave birth to a healthy boy at home.
But the 27-year-old suffered a retained placenta, a painful and potential fatal complication of childbirth, and had to plead with her husband to take her to hospital.
“He said we don’t have money. I insisted, saying there are government facilities, we won’t have to spend too much,” Khatri said.
“It is better to go the hospital than to die at home.”
Eventually Khatri’s husband relented, and she was treated for free at a nearby clinic. The couple were also given 1,000 rupees to pay for transport.
But some women cannot be reached by road and must be carried, while others encounter poorly equipped facilities once they arrive, said Niliza Shakya, a doctor at a health center in Ramechhap.
“Some women still don’t have the decision-making power to say they want to go to a hospital, and health posts like ours are not equipped enough,” said Shakya.
Nepal managed to reduce maternal mortality by 71 percent between 1990 and 2015 — just missing out on an ambitious Millennium Development Goal to reduce the rate by three-quarters.
But it has a long way to go in improving the overall quality of its health care, said Binjwala Shrestha, a charity worker from the Safe Motherhood Network Federation of Nepal.
“Reaching the hospital alone is not enough,” she said.