Reproductive Health in Myanmar: The MOM Project

The eastern border region of Myanmar has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with more than 700 deaths per 100,000 deliveries.

Women in eastern Myanma face enormous risks 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 Myanmar 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. In 2005 Community Partners International began an unprecedented project to deliver reproductive health services to conflict-affected and isolated populations within eastern Myanmar. 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 extremely low resource, conflict-affected regions.

With support from The Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins University, CPI and leaders from four ethnic groups 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 Myanmar 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 Myanmar, and has been replicated by CPI’s local partners in other underserved regions, 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 Myanmar 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.

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.”

Saving Mothers' Lives