Thursday, September 8, 2016

My commitment to help children in hard to reach areas (Naga Self-Administrative Region)

By Nay Myo Thu, Health Officer, UNICEF Myanmar 

I was part of the seven-member response team that travel to Lahe Township, in Naga Self-administrative Region, after a measles outbreak was confirmed. We took a flight from Mandalay to Khamti, a remote town in Sagaing Region. Then, we crossed Chindwin river by a small boat to reach Sin Thay village. From there,  we took a jeep to go the capital of Naga, Lahe. Fortunately,  the road was dry and we were able to reach our destination in 6 hours. When it rains, landslides are very common, blocking roads and making the journey much longer. Although the road is rough, bummpy and in some parts  very muddy,  we enjoyed the drive over the Naga hills, including the highest one - Htein Nyo mountain, which is over 5,000 ft high.

The team met with the Naga self-adminstration authorities, including the Township Health Department to plan the outbreak response immunization activities in all 93 villages of Lahe Township. In addition,  we  decided to collect detailed information about the first registered deaths that occurred in Htan Kaw Lamma village, in the north of Lahe. Motorcycle is the only way to reach the Township’s different villages. Therefore, we left Lahe Township with 6 team members and 4 motorcycles- a very expensive trip given the remoteness of the area and lack of local resources. Since Naga ethnic group does not speak Myanmar language we had to hire two local translators. We had also to take our own food for the entire mission, since the villagers live almost exclusively on cereals they produce.  

We left Lahe at 7 AM and after half an hour, we started to see the first changes in the landscape. We crossed muddy roads and jungle paths, and drove through narrow roads almost falling off the cliff. A few times landslides blocked our way, forcing us to get off the moto and walk. we also had to cross a string bridge made of bamboo. On the muddy and slippery road, we fell off the motorcycles several times. On the way, we found out that recently two motorcycles had fell off the cliff.

Since the road was very rough and muddy, sometimes the motorcycles could not drive up the hill or got stuck in mud, so we had to carry them by hand. Indeed, human beings and motorcycles have to cooperate well and help each other to reach the desired destinations.

After 12 hours, we finally reached the foot of the hill, Htan Kaw Lamma village was not too far away. This was the last hill we had to pass through. Since it started raining, we had to walk.  At 8:30 pm we finally reached “our” village. After showering, thanks to a mountain spring water pipeline, and having dinner prepared by two school teachers, we finally went to bed. 

The following morning, I had a chance to see the view and take photos of the beautiful Naga hills, meet with the population and explain the purpose of our visit and the immunization campaign, collect the required information from the families of the deceased children, as well as learn the culture of Naga ethnic groups. Despite the difficult, risky and exhausting journey, I really enjoyed my mission, reaching Naga ethnic groups and organising the necessary interventions to improve the lives of their children. 

The beauty of Naga villages
©UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Nay Myo Thu

A string bridge made of bamboo
©UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Nay Myo Thu

Our food for the entire mission
©UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Nay Myo Thu  

Motorcycle and human cooperation in difficult road
©UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Nay Myo Thu  

Interview with families of deceased children
©UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Nay Myo Thu  

Pounding cereals for meals
©UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Nay Myo Thu  

Group photo: Chairman of Naga Self-administration Region and outbreak response team
©UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Nay Myo Thu  

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