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In parts of eastern Myanmar, where traditional birth attendants are still widely used, the infant mortality rate is as high as 73 deaths per 1,000 live births, a stark contrast to Thailand, which has an infant mortality rate of 14 deaths per 1,000 live births.
A higher infant mortality rate can be a consequence of conditions of conflict, forced labour and human rights abuses, but dangerous traditional practices are also to blame.
Some of those dangerous methods still used by traditional birth attendants include pushing on a woman's stomach during labour, using sharp slivers of bamboo cleaned with charcoal to cut the umbilical cord, or even traditional birth attendants using long nails to fatally puncture a baby’s head in order to shrink it during a difficult delivery.
Integer, the reproductive health programme coordinator for the Karen Department of Health and Welfare, stated that before birth attendants gained training "they didn't know sterile methods or even the stages of delivery and when to begin the delivery."
The Karen Department of Health and Welfare is involved in the Mobile Obstetrics Medics (MOM) Project launched in 2005 by the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at John Hopkins University and the health branch of Community Partners International — the Global Health Access Program (GHAP).
The project, based in Thailand but serving community-based maternal and child health workers from Myanmar’s Shan, Mon, Karen and Karenni states, seeks to increase training amount traditional birth attendants around ante-and postnatal care, sterile deliveries, treatment for complications and even family planning services.
"The MOM project was a huge success," says Luke Mullany, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "After training, they got that knowledge, and they also learned about high-risk pregnancies. When they see a high-risk pregnancy, they can send the patient to the nearest clinic for further examination." . . . Read the full story