- WHY CARE ABOUT BURMA?
- WHO WE ARE
Burmese women along the Thai-Burma border face enormous risks in having children: the vast majority are anemic and deliver their babies without trained assistance or access to emergency obstetric services. Nearly 1% of pregnancies result in maternal death, mostly from bleeding after delivery or infection — one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world.
Women in Burma are disproportionately responsible for raising children, caring for the sick, earning income and feeding their families, so having access to quality reproductive health services is key to building thriving communities. Community Partners International’s health branch, the Global Health Access Program (GHAP), began an unprecedented project in 2005 to deliver reproductive health services to conflict-affected and isolated populations within eastern Burma. The aim — safe births and improved maternal health — was not unusual. What made the Mobile Obstetric Maternal Health Workers (MOM) Project unique was its reliance on local health workers to provide life-saving care outside of a clinic setting and in conflict-affected regions.
With support from The Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins University, GHAP and leaders from four ethnic groups have established a network of more than 750 local health workers, tailoring traditional reproductive health interventions specifically for this highly mobile and vulnerable population.
The three-year MOM Project demonstrated that, with modest resources and proper training, health workers, in collaboration with traditional birth attendants, can significantly increase delivery of services that save mothers’ lives — and provide continuity of care even in the event of attack or displacement. Because of the MOM Project, communities in eastern Burma gained a ten-fold increase in access to life-saving health services.
The MOM Project’s mobile, community-led approach now reaches more than 90,000 in eastern Burma, and has been replicated by CPI’s local partners in other underserved regions in Burma, providing antenatal care, family planning and emergency obstetric services for 135,000.
Because of the MOM Project, hundreds of women and men have received indispensable maternal health skills training, and tens of thousands of women in Burma have received essential reproductive health services for the first time. However, there are far more who remain without care, because of a critical lack of resources and access in the conflict-affected border regions.
The community-driven interventions provided by our local partners can mean the difference between life and death. As one local health worker said, “In our area, before the MOM Project, we had no maternal program. We saw many women with problems like post-partum hemorrhage, preeclampsia, abortion, sepsis. Now we are able to save more women.”