Every day in Myanmar tens of thousands of women give birth far from any hospital or emergency services. Separated from healthcare by distance, poverty and fighting between local factions, these women go without routine medical attention and access to life-saving vaccines and other essentials to keep their babies healthy.
More than half of all women in Myanmar’s Southern Shan State give birth outside a health facility and without the assistance of a nurse or midwife. Relief International is working to improve the health and safety of Shan’s pregnant women and their children by providing financial, technical and training support to local township health departments.
Chronically underfunded, these departments lack the equipment and trained staff needed to offer essential services. In some facilities, roughly half of the healthcare positions remain empty.
With RI’s support, township health departments learn to better manage their assets. RI also supports training of community-based health workers and auxiliary midwives, establishment of mobile medical clinics that deliver primary care services to hard-to-reach areas, and has helped create a referral system to ensure that children under five and pregnant women can get urgent care when they need it.
Since RI launched the program in late 2014, more women and children in some of Myanmar’s most remote communities are surviving and thriving. For instance:
- The number of women completing all four recommended pre-natal visits has increased by 15 percent
- More children are being vaccinated and receiving treatment for diarrhea and pneumonia.
- Referrals for emergency care are on the rise and families are bearing less of the out-of-pocket costs for these services.
The U.N. Office for Project Services (UNOPS), an RI partner, provided principal funding for this initiative, with additional support provided by the Three Millennium Development Goals Fund (3MDG), a pooled multi-donor fund that supports maternal, newborn and child health services in Myanmar. The program in Southern Shan State is a joint effort of RI, community-based ethnic organizations and local township health authorities under the leadership of Myanmar’s Ministry of Health.
RI began working in Myanmar in 2008 in response to the devastating cyclone Nargis, which killed more than 100,000 people and caused significant damage to the nation’s fragile healthcare infrastructure. This current RI program supporting maternal, newborn and child health services will continue through December 2017.