What does it take to save a life?

A traditional piggy bank

Health worker showing a drawing of a hand putting a coin into the slot of a traditional Indian coin bank.

What stands between life and death for a woman giving birth in rural India? Often, it’s a ride to the nearest health center.

Every minute counts when a baby isn’t getting enough oxygen or a woman is having postpartum bleeding—the leading cause of maternal mortality. But in places with few vehicles, getting to medical care can be hard. In an emergency, the cost of transportation can be as much as 500 rupees (US$10), an insurmountable fee for the poorest families. Instead, a woman might ride on a cart pulled by a bullock or on the back of a bicycle over rutted dirt roads for 30 miles or more. Or she might not leave her home at all.

To overcome this barrier, Village Health and Sanitation Committees in India use two strategies: they negotiate lower transportation rates for women in labor, and they provide expecting parents with a traditional clay coin bank to save for the cost. Now when a woman goes into labor, families are more likely to call for the ride that could save the life of the mother or her baby.