Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A childhood dream come true

By Mariana Palavra

Hakka, Chin State, June 2016 - Ngun Hlei Zing was four years old when she got pneumonia and was treated by a midwife. This changed her life. From then on, she dreamt of one day becoming a midwife.  “I was impressed by the midwives uniforms and their mission to take care of others”, recalls Ngun Hlei Zing, now 34 years old. 

©UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Mariana Palavra
Ngun Hlei Zing stands in front of Lok Lung sub-rural health centre
The dream came true six years ago, after Ngun Hlei Zing successfully completed the one-and-a half year midwife training course provided by the Ministry of Health and Sports. Since then she has been working in her native Lok Lung village, in Hakha Township, and she couldn’t be happier. “Some of the most rewarding moments happened in the worst situations, where I had to assist complicated deliveries”, she recalls. “The mothers were suffering a lot, sometimes even falling unconscious, but then the baby was successfully born. And that special moment when the mother meets her child is also my biggest happiness”.

In fact, every mother in Lok Lung village knows Ngun Hlei Zing and praises her work. “If it was not for our midwife, my first son could have died”, declares Zing Len Thluai, now a mother of three children. When her oldest son was 10-months old, he was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition with complications. “I remember that day so well, how he arrived at the clinic so small. It was a very complicated case, so I was very worried for him”, recalls the midwife, who immediately sent the baby to the nearest hospital.

A few weeks later, when the baby was sent back home, Ngun Hlei Zing closely followed this case and continued the nutrition treatment by feeding him with therapeutic food and monitoring his health condition on a weekly basis.  “It was very rewarding to witness his recovery. He became bigger and stronger like other boys, with no health repercussions”, the midwife recalls.

UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Mariana Palavra
Ngun Hlei Zing with Thung Tin Tang, who suffered from severe acute malnutrition five years ago
Today, five years later, the boy still comes on a regular basis to the sub-rural health centre.  “It’s a joy to see him healthy”, the midwife says. “He personalises one of the reasons why I chose this work”. For the 33 year-old mother, the role of the midwife has marked her past and present life. “If she wasn’t here, we wouldn’t know what to do. She has been taking care of all of us”, says Zing Len Thluai. “Because of her, I have paid more attention to my health and the heath of my children. After my first son, I had two more children and I haven’t had any health problems with any of them”. 

Likewise, 27 year-old Deny Win visits the sub-rural health centre regularly and none of her four children had had any health problems. “I learn many things from the midwife every time I come”, she confirms. “I learned how to be healthy during my pregnancies, including by taking vitamins, deworming and eating nutritious food. I also learned about exclusive breastfeeding and infant feeding. And most importantly, I trust my midwife, who gives me great psychological support.” 

UNICEF support
In fact, children in Chin are more likely to be malnourished than children in other parts of Myanmar. Underweight (31%), stunting (58%) and wasting (9%) prevalence in the State are higher than the national average. Stunting (or low height-for-age) is a consequence of chronic malnutrition and can cause irreversible damage to brain development.  “UNICEF is working to strengthen not only the political commitment, but also the capacity at State and Township levels, as well as community mobilization, to improve the well-being and nutritional status of all children across Chin so they can develop to their full potential”, explains Mohammad Badrul Hassan, Chief of UNICEF Hakha Field Office. “And to reach this goal, midwives play a fundamental role, especially by reaching the most disadvantaged and out-of-reach children.”

Indeed, through UNICEF support, Ngun Hlei Zing attended different trainings which have helped to build up her career, namely on community case management, child immunisation, mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) screening, exclusive breastfeeding counselling and infant and young child feeding, prevention of mother to child HIV transmission, HIV counselling and testing, and malaria prevention.

In addition, UNICEF, through the Ministry of Health, provides essential supplies for Ngun Hlei Zing’s work, particularly vitamin A and B1, therapeutic food, deworming, and iron supplements, as well as the midwife kit and IEC (information, education and communication) materials.     

“A midwife cannot be seen as a government’s job or a mercenary job. In this work, you give a part of yourself”, assures Ngun Hlei Zing. And this young midwife wants to give more of herself. “I want to continue my studies to become a lady health visitor (LHV) and, who knows, maybe even a nurse”. So her childhood dream has become even bigger.

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