Yangon, Myanmar – Midwife Daw Aye Myint is the first health professional to ever be based in Htamakaut, a remote village in the rural Magway region. She arrived there only 11 months ago.
Risks are high for mothers and infants in the area, where reproductive health care is sorely lacking. Torrential rains make the village inaccessible for months at a time, separating residents from the outside world. In the past, many women resorted to giving birth without the assistance of a skilled midwife or other health professional.
And the problem is not restricted to Htamakaut. Throughout the region, too few women have access to contraceptives and information about their bodies and health needs.
But since her arrival, Ms. Aye Myint has extended the reach of health services to women and newborns across four villages – covering a population of about 2,600.
“I make four or five routine visits to three other villages each month,” Ms. Aye Myint told UNFPA. “In the summer they are easily accessible, but when the rains come, the roads turn into mud. But I manage.”
Trusted and respected
Ms. Aye Myint is one of 42 midwives to be trained and deployed in underserved regions of Myanmar, part of a programme supported by UNFPA and the Myanmar Nurses and Midwives Association. The programme targets remote areas, like the villages in Magway, as well as conflict-affected areas and other at-risk communities.
Ms. Aye Myint received 18 months of midwifery training. She also attended a five-day pre-deployment course before leaving for Htamakaut.
The midwives often find themselves warmly welcomed into their new communities.
“Their value lies in the fact that they can blend in with rural people very easily,” Dr. Kyaw Kyaw, the local township's medical coordinator, said about the midwives deployed in Magway. “They are trusted and respected.”
Training local health workers
Too many women continue to die of maternal causes in Myanmar. Out of every 100,000 live births, about 178 women die from pregnancy-related complications. By contrast, in a country like France, this number is less than 10.
The midwifery programme aims to reduce these needless deaths. The midwives don’t only attend to the needs of pregnant women, new mothers and infants. They also help expand the skills and abilities of local health workers.
“They have experience, and can share it with community health workers and auxiliary midwives in the villages,” Dr. Kyaw Kyaw said.
Today, Ms. Aye Myint is training an auxiliary midwife and two community health workers in the area, helping to ensure better sexual and reproductive health care is available to more people.
“Where they are deployed, we are certain that maternal and infant care improves greatly,” said Dr. Kyaw Kyaw.