Improved health: What I saw firsthand in rural Myanmar

By Stephen Collins, World Vision’s Myanmar Portfolio Advisor

In the past couple of days, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing World Vision’s work to improve the health and security of families in Palaw Township, Myanmar. Palaw is located in the narrow strip of land in south-eastern Myanmar, squeezed between the sea and the border with Thailand.

As with many areas in this part of the world, it’s difficult to earn a living and many people choose to cross borders to find a secure income to support themselves and their families.

But life is changing, and changing quite quickly, so that soon, I hope people will feel they can have a good life here without feeling compelled to leave. To an outsider the changes to the surface are noticeable – bicycles have been replaced by motorbikes and there is more of a vibrant feel.

Dig deeper and the changes are just as striking. I am so happy to share some of these successes with you.

 

            "In Palaw I visited health centres supported by sponsors like you who excitedly reported no recent cases of                       severe malnutrition and, quite strikingly, no child mortality (deaths) in their area for more than two years!"

 

This is great to hear in a country in which well over 50 of every 1,000 children have been dying before they turn five.

It’s clear that you are playing your part

Sometimes it’s hard for sponsors to truly understand the difference they are making, as it can take a long time to see changes in some areas. However in Palaw, these changes are shining through. Your sponsorship supports health activities in your sponsored child’s community.

 

            "I visited a maternal, newborn and child health project, which helped to set up village health committees –                       groups of eight to 10 people, mostly women – who get together under a common cause of improving the                        health and nutrition of young children."

 

A large part of the committees’ work is raising awareness, both through group sessions with other mothers and through home visits to support families who are most in need. Thanks to their work, mothers understand more about the importance of breast feeding and the types of food their children need in order to develop well. They also learn about the importance of regular ante-natal and post-natal care and now, many more women are choosing to come to the medical centres for advice and support.

However, awareness raising can only go so far. There is not much point encouraging mothers to go to medical centres for delivery and care if the service they receive leaves little to be desired.

Here too you can see the fruits of your generosity.

 

             "With support from this maternal, newborn and child health project, the medical staff showed me their clean,                well-equipped delivery rooms, going a long way towards reducing the number of infant deaths or even the                     deaths of their mothers during delivery."

Together we help the most vulnerable

For some families, however, life is still extremely hard. Without land, the poorest families work as casual farm labourers. They lead a hand-to-mouth existence so when there is a health emergency they are simply unable to cope by themselves.

Health centres only reach some communities and are for some a long way away without a means of transport. It’s in situations like this that the health committees are really at their best.

 

             "In a recent case, a three-week old baby was seriously ill in one of Palaw’s more remote communities and the                 worried parents came to the health committee for advice and support. The committee members went to the                 local authority who arranged for them to take the baby to receive treatment."

 

Thankfully the newborn is fine now and leads a healthy life. The family is grateful for not only World Vision’s immediate support but also ongoing support to monitor the growth and health of children particularly in remote areas.

By sponsoring a child in Myanmar, your support goes into programs exactly like this one. There are five sponsorship projects across Myanmar and two more that are just starting, where World Vision works to improve health and reduce preventable deaths like I saw in Palaw.

When the trip was over I returned to my own kids and my own comfortable home. I felt lucky that my kids could grow up without the worries I saw in Myanmar, but I was pleased to know that I was part of an organisation with supporters like you, which was helping children in those areas to lead happy, healthy lives.

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