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May 18, 2020

Delivering essential services to communities in crisis

Maaike & Frances, volunteer midwives
Maaike & Frances, volunteer midwives

Thank you for your continued support of this project. 

Despite the current global COVID-19 outbreak, the Health & Hope team in Myanmar are still supporting the most vulnerable communities in the region. Delivering services such as maternal and neonatal care remains essential. With government health service provision even more restricted during the present crisis, locally trained, specialist birth attendants play a critical role in remote rural communities.

Two midwives from the UK, Maaike and Frances, were in western Myanmar working in the villages prior to the restrictions put in place in March. In this report, Maaike reflects on the situation for women and health workers in the villages and the achievements in local care as a result of your support for this project.

 

Maaike:

“Since 2013 we have engaged with Health & Hope in Chin State, to deliver education to Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) working in the most rural and unsupported areas of the region. Around 200 TBAs have now participated in our 5-day education programs on pregnancy, birth and immediate post-natal care and also on managing emergency situations. 

In order to extend the reach of this work, in April 2018 we introduced a ‘Train the Trainer’ program. Eight experienced TBAs were trained to deliver essential education to other TBAs in the most inaccessible villages. This meant the equipping of volunteers can continue year-round, rather than waiting for another visit from the UK. They also have capacity to travel further into remote areas than a time-restricted visitor from overseas would be able to manage.

We were glad to be able to return in March 2020, and evaluate how the local trainers are already getting on. It was clear that they have been active and successful in rolling out the program in remote villages as tasked. This voluntary role requires a lot of commitment. When we asked them what practical/domestic difficulties they experienced from being away from home for up to six days at a time, they said they are well supported by their husbands, and that other village women help out, too. They feel proud of what they do and believe passionately in its value. This gives them confidence to press on.

The numbers of TBAs who have received training in locations that had not been accessed before is hugely encouraging. During just four months, 47 TBAs had received training for the first time. In addition, many villagers have had the opportunity to learn basic health knowledge such as hand washing, personal hygiene, nutrition and sexual health by joining in with the training. 

In all the villages, great interest was shown in the work of the local trainers by the Village Elders. This has raised respect for the importance of the work of TBAs, and strengthened the goodwill and trust placed in the services offered by Health & Hope. It is clear that the local trainers’ work has generated proactive support to enhance the safety of childbearing women, and boosted the ‘buy-in’ of communities to the public health education that the team is rolling out alongside.

Of the training provided in villages, one Trainer of Trainers reported: “The town administrator came to our training and he was so impressed that he said all women should come, and the men should also learn. He then gave us a chicken to take home in appreciation of our work!“

During this visit, 18 Area Co-ordinators (16 men and 2 women) also joined the programme to receive training, specifically covering emergency situations and how to deal with complications during birth. These Area Co-ordinators (ACs) are an established group who have been trained together initially as Community Health Workers (CHWs) and  are now responsible for overseeing up to 15 CHWs in their region. In many village situations, where there is no TBA present, they may be the only person available to support a woman in pregnancy.  We also became aware that they are often the only trained healthworkers attending births.

Our programme of training is off to a great start, and we are so grateful for your support. There is still much more to be done to continue to deliver this vital, life-saving training, and to equip local volunteers with the skills they need to support women through child-birth and ongoing childcare. Thank you for your generous help which is enabling our work.”

Looking forward to the coming year, the project will shift to focus more on the local trainers' work in remote villages, enabling them to conduct more training workshops with only one monitoring visit from the UK-based midwives.

During this time we are continuing to deliver critical services to vulnerable communities in addition to a COVID-19 Prevent, Detect, Respond strategy in 143 villages across Chin State. If you would like to find out more about this project, please click here.

Thank you once again for your committed support to these essential projects.

Training workshops
Training workshops
COVID-19 response
COVID-19 response

Links:

May 7, 2020

Studying during uncertain times

Health & Hope staff many of whom are FEP graduates
Health & Hope staff many of whom are FEP graduates

We are so grateful for your continued support and commitment towards our work.

The impact of COVID-19 is being felt worldwide, and many of our FEP students face an uncertain time as their universities and colleges have temporarily closed. We hope that they will still be able to sit their exams if the restrictions are lifted in time. In the meantime, we are ensuring that they are being supported through this challenging time with pastoral care, financial support, and continued educational support and advice for their future studies and careers.

YinYin is one of our students who is in her final year of studying a BSc in Medical Imaging Technology in Shillong, India. She is about to start an internship in Yangon, Myanmar and has written a short update on her time at university and what she hopes to do in the future.

“Before I became a part of FEP, I completed my higher secondary in my home town in Chin state, Myanmar, where there was no internet, libraries or schools teaching English. After I passed my Year 10 exams, I was selected to continue my studies in Shillong as part of the Freedom to Education Project (FEP). Health & Hope supported me with accommodation, food and finances so I never had to worry. But, I still faced lots difficulty in the lessons and language. Everything was in English, which I didn’t understand very well. Thanks to the support and encouragement I received from the Health & Hope staff and other students, I passed my class 11 and 12.

When the time came, I was able to study my Bachelor’s Degree with the support of Dr. Sasa and Health & Hope. My life has been totally changed because I improved a lot in my studies, and also have grown spiritually - as well as in my English and communication skills! 

We have classes for three days a week at university. We used to participate in class activities and give class presentations, which I never did before. But taking part has helped me to improve my English and confidence. We also have a medical posting for three days a week in MRI, CT scan, and X-ray at Bethany Hospital. In hospital we do patient preparation for imaging procedures, learning how to position the patient and operate the equipment. During this experience I have come to realise how all medical professions are connected and how important each one is for making the right diagnosis, and giving the right treatment to the patient.

As my studies continued, the lessons became harder, alongside increasing  hours at the hospital. It is getting more and more challenging, but I am very happy to say that I have continued to progress in my studies. Not having to worry financially is such a great relief and allows me to concentrate on my studies, and I know this is because of your support.

I am going to do a one-year internship in Myanmar from this coming July. I am very much looking forward to this as I have heard many amazing stories from my senior FEP students about how much knowledge, experience and practical skill they have gained from their internships.

I am thrilled to be studying this course - I feel my life is more meaningful from being part of the medical imaging team, and being able to help others through my work. Thank you so much for supporting me; I am so grateful to be an FEP student!

 

YinYin is the third generation of nurses returning from the FEP to Myanmar. Over the last year, three graduate nurses have been working full-time as part of our staff team, delivering community and maternal healthcare services across our projects. In addition, a further four undergraduate nurses have been serving in a volunteer capacity while gaining crucial experience at Hope Clinic, along with supporting our maternal health projects and working with our partner, Medical Action Myanmar. Below are some photos of these nurses delivering training to local healthcare workers and critical care in the community. 

We have recently updated our website with the latest news on our response to the COVID-19 crisis. As we work with the team in Myanmar to develop our plans in response to the current situation, we will endeavour to update you further on this. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this or any of our other projects, please feel free to email me directly on philippa.wilford@healthandhope.org.

Thank you again for your continued support and partnership. Your giving is making a wonderful difference to our students’ lives who are, in turn, using their skills and qualifications to bring life-saving healthcare to their communities. 

FEP Nurse during internship year
FEP Nurse during internship year
Graduate Nurse supporting Hope Clinic
Graduate Nurse supporting Hope Clinic

Links:

May 7, 2020

Health & Hope Training Centre almost complete

Training Centre, March 2020
Training Centre, March 2020

Over the last 2.5 years, the community in Lailenpi has been working hard to re-build the buildings that were destroyed by Cyclone Mora in 2017. The training centre is critical to the outworking of Health & Hope's vision of providing facilities for: 

- Training for Community Health Workers (CHWs) who give vital healthcare to people in remote communities;

 - Maternal Health training of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), local trainers and government midwives;

- Support for up to 100 students studying full-time in our Education for All project;

- Office space and a logistical base for emergency relief in times of civil unrest and national disasters.

Even over the last few months, the building has been vital for enabling our training programmes, workshops and education projects to continue. As we near the end of the building project, we want to thank every person who has given generously to support our work in this way. With the final funding  having been recently provided by a corporate foundation, we are now entering the last phase of the project: installation of electricity, plumbing and the finishing touches to the offices and classrooms.

In February we were fortunate enough to be supported by SolarLEAP who funded and installed a solar powered computer suite and offline electronic library at the Training Centre. The library will provide an incredible resource for the local community and students.

Of course, the current global crisis is causing much concern for our team and the vulnerable communities in the region. Our website has been updated with the latest news on our response to the COVID-19 crisis: Prevent, Detect, Respond. This currently involves a number of preventative outreach visits being conducted in remote communities. The health team are working alongside Community Health Workers (CHWs) to educate communities on the virus and prevention of transmission, providing PPE and other tools such as thermometers for CHWs, as well as supporting individuals who show symptoms through self-isolation. 

We have received some expert design input on how part of the Training Centre could be converted into a self-contained COVID-19 support unit, should the need arise to respond to patients affected by the virus in the region. It is incredible to have a facility like this available so that we can be ready to respond to critical needs, as and when they develop. Support for this proposal, as well as enabling patient transfers to tertiary care hospitals (over 2 days journey) are dependent on us sourcing additional funding under the ‘Respond’ phase of our strategy.

As we work with the team in Myanmar to develop our plans in response to the current situation, we will endeavour to update you further on this, but in the meantime, if you have any questions about this or any of our other projects, please do get in touch with me via email: philippa.wilford@healthandhope.org.

Thank you again for your continued support and partnership with us in this programme - we look forward to updating you with the final photos of the finished building soon! 

Training of TBAs in the Training Centre
Training of TBAs in the Training Centre
Electronic library installed by SolarLEAP
Electronic library installed by SolarLEAP
Design for COVID-19 support unit
Design for COVID-19 support unit

Links:

 
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