Saturday, April 9, 2016

Story of a Midwife: Changing Lives in Remote Villages in Western Myanmar

By Kap Za Lyan and Mohammad Badrul Hassan

Daw Kip Mawi, 49 years old, is the only midwife from her village, located 200 kilometres away from Hakha, which in turn is 1000 kilometres away from Yangon.
©UNICEF Myanmar/2016/ Mohammad Badrul Hassan
Daw Kip Mawi’s work requires her to move constantly between remote villages in Western Myanmar.  The 49 year old woman is the only midwife from Thong Lang Sub-Rural Health Centre (SRHC), a village 200 kilometres away from Hakha, the capital of Chin State, which in turn is 1000 kilometres away from Yangon.

Given the remoteness of this area and the limited access to health services, Daw Kip Mawi has become more than a midwife. “My weekly routine includes receiving out patients, taking care of pregnant women, vaccinating children and visiting homes for diagnosis and follow up”, she explained while visiting an ailing road construction worker to provide advice on some health treatment. Indeed, Daw Kip Mawi tries to reach and provide health services to everyone in three  catchment villages scattered far from one another, where walking is the main means of transport.
A member of the Matu ethnic Chin community, Daw Kip Mawi received extensive training on community-based new born care, immunisation, micro-nutrient supplementation, water, sanitation, and hygiene, as well as HIV/AIDS, and community case management. As a SRHC midwife she receives supplies provided by UNICEF through Myanmar’s Government. Besides her routine work, she also has to support data collection for national census, malaria and HIV/AIDS. In addition, whenever she treats critical pregnancy cases she refers them to Matupi Township Hospital, which is 100 kilometres away from the SRHC, and accompanies the patient if required.
Whilst admitting that working conditions are difficult, this midwife has no doubts regarding her career choice: “It is very difficult during the labour pain but once the baby is successfully delivered I don’t have words to express my joy. I really love my job”, she said.
Daw Kip Mawi is proud of working for mothers’ and children’s wellbeing, even if she receives a poor salary, around Ks 217,000 (USD 170) per month. “Out of 13 deliveries this year, two mothers rewarded me”. She did not take that money for herself.  Instead she bought some utensils for the SRHC, such as pails, cups, brooms, and brushes, so that the entire community could benefit from it. 
The villagers from this area respect her and rely on her services. They seek her advice not only on health cases but also on family and social issues. As a recognition for her services, she often gets some extra help. “Two or three men will come once a month to collect firewood from the forest and chop those for me.”
Daw Kip Mawi has been working as midwife for 13 years, while her husband doesn’t have a regular job. Both share the same dream for their three children: “We wish they can get a good education and dedicate their life to helping others.”
Chin State is home to more than 50 remote and isolated ethnic communities in the country. Having one of the highest poverty rate among all states/regions (71.5 per cent), the State is behind in most social indicators. Difficult geographic terrain, extreme weather, budget constraints, insufficient electricity and infrastructure, inadequate social support system, and long distance are obstacles to the improvement of service delivery in the State.
Through the State and Union government, UNICEF is providing support to improve the health conditions of women and children in Chin. This includes community-based new born care and case management, immunisation, micro-nutrient supplementation, management of severe and acute malnutrition, prevention of mother to child transmission, and diagnosis and treatment of malaria.

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