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Give Hope to Mothers in Myanmar with Baby Kits

by Refugee Empowerment International
Give Hope to Mothers in Myanmar with Baby Kits
Give Hope to Mothers in Myanmar with Baby Kits
Give Hope to Mothers in Myanmar with Baby Kits
Give Hope to Mothers in Myanmar with Baby Kits
Give Hope to Mothers in Myanmar with Baby Kits
Give Hope to Mothers in Myanmar with Baby Kits
Give Hope to Mothers in Myanmar with Baby Kits
Give Hope to Mothers in Myanmar with Baby Kits
Give Hope to Mothers in Myanmar with Baby Kits
Give Hope to Mothers in Myanmar with Baby Kits
Delivering supplies
Delivering supplies

New mothers now face the challenge of protecting their babies and their families against COVID-19. Fortunately many of them benefit from the support and advice from women who have received baby kits and health training previously.

Community workers are gradually making their way into the villages where internally displaced communities are living. In May soldiers burnt down COVID screening posts that were set up by the Karen Department of Health and back-pack health workers. They were able to re-construct the posts in July and the emphasis now is on providing essential supplies and ensuring people understand the measures to take to protect against COVID. Information about the COVID pandemic and personal protective items are not easily available in the more remote villages. The community workers who can reach those villages provide an essential lifeline of support. In addition to the problems of displacement and COVID, the area around Ee Htu Hta internal displacement camp was badly affected recently by flooding.

The current situation highlights the importance of beneficiaries sharing their knowledge and experience to achieve a degree of sustainability in the health program.

Flooding in Ee Htu Hta
Flooding in Ee Htu Hta
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Happy to share learning
Happy to share learning

Refugee and internally displaced communities have been impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic much like everywhere else in the world.

The refugee camps on the Thai-Myanmar border were put into lock-down and movement inside Karen state, Myanmar has been severely restricted.

This has meant that community workers could not reach the displaced communities, so no training workshops have been held recently.

However, the women who have benefited from previous training are able to support each other during these times.

We remember the mother who said that she is very happy she joined the awareness raising session and she felt she can share the information with other women so that it will help other babies.

This ripple effect of our funding is essential for ensuring continuity and sustaining the benefits of the program.

In October 2019, the Women, Peace and Security Index, developed by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Safety ranked Myanmar 150th out of 167 countries in terms of inclusion, security and justice for women so projects like this are essential for strengthening the communities to build resistance to the challenges they face.

A huge thank you to our donors during World Refugee Week and for the matching funding from GlobalGiving. We will be able to resume support to mothers in Karen state once the restrictions are lifted. Our appreciation is expressed best by one Karen mother: “Thank you for your help to me and my children. You don't know me, and you live far away from my village, but anyway you are willing to help me. You must be very kind and thoughtful. If I could meet you I would express my deep gratitude to you.”

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As the decades long conflict continues, the importance of stability in the midst of such uncertainty cannot be emphasized enough. While the livelihoods of the Karen women has not been a priority in Myanmar, they have shown great resilience. With support from various organizations women and their families are surviving and finding hope for an improved quality of life - even just the possibility of life for many babies.

Many of these groups have seen a steady reduction in funds recently as funders choose to redirect support to other competing efforts. This reduction is impactful and is felt by the beneficiaries who receive a majority of their assistance from external support. Refugees and IDPs at the border faced an unsettling year of instability as there were reductions in provisions of food, education, health services, and an increase in violence and mental health problems. There is also an increasing risk of malnutrition for pregnant mothers and babies.

While this setback seems overwhelming, the persistence of community workers has been effective in continuing to creating sustainable change.

One local leaders said “We saw that our community women and their family gained more knowledge on basic healthcare provided through the project. We also gained more awareness on basic health and hygiene including a clean environment for better health. We believe that we can increase our living standards in our community. So this project should be continued in our community.”

As we focus on continuing our support of these mothers and children we are grateful for the support we have seen and are hopeful for the future.

A district level project field coordinator explained the additional benefits: "Since I worked as Baby Kit project field coordinator, I gained a lot of skills regarding project management, financial record keeping, activity recording, dealing with difficult situations, working with local leaders in our community and also conducting awareness for the mother who received the kits. All of these skills and capacity I built up bit by bit. The practical working experience year after year also built up my confidence and capacity."

These women know that continuing conflict is a barrier to them leading healthy, safe lives for themselves and their children but it has not stifled their will to find ways to survive and try to create a better future for themselves. We are committed to supporting this effort in any way we can and know that your valuable contributions play a major role in facilitating this.

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Babies with a future
Babies with a future

As we reach the year’s end, it is time to look at our project’s impact and reaffirm our commitment to next year’s goals. This year, RIJ and local partners distributed 180 baby kits in Karen State Myanmar.

The infant mortality rate in Myanmar continues to drop, and community health led initiatives like the baby kit are critical to improving conditions and increasing health and nutrition for young children who have been displaced by conflict.

Items like laundry soap, baby soap, baby wraps, and nail clippers are all items that we take for granted but can make a significant difference in the lives of new mothers who are already facing the difficulties of displacement.

Before the baby kit’s, many mothers don’t have access to supplies necessary to take care of their babies. One mother said “I’m very happy to receive the materials for my baby. We always live in the forest moving from place to place. We never hoped that there will be support for people like us.”

Thank you for your support this year, and we look forward to serving communities further in 2020 and beyond.

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In the old village
In the old village

Through decades of neglect, the health system in Myanmar ranks among the worst in the world and the ethnic areas are particularly neglected. It will take many years for proper, functioning health systems and infrastructure to be developed and in the meantime community-led health initiatives are essential for minimizing the impact.

A team from RIJ recently visited Thailand and met some of the community workers who coordinate the distribution of kits inside Karen state Myanmar. We heard how the program continues to strengthen the capacity of community managers at district and township level. They have increased nutrition education and women's health education activities in their communities.

One mother’s story highlights the neglect.
“My family are all famers. While I lived in my home village, I had 2 children. In my home village there was no clinic, no health materials delivered from humanitarian organizations, and no way to get knowledge of health education. There was also no clinic to go to nearby or medications available to take for mother or baby. If something is wrong with our health or if we need to get treatment, we must go to another village that is two-days walk away.”

The situation in her home village was getting worse so when she fell pregnant with her third child she moved nearer to a displaced camp and was able to receive a baby kit.

“I had never used some of the hygiene materials in there, nor had I ever heard some of those health messages. When my first two babies were born, I used pieces of my husband’s old sarong, and some other old clothes, to wrap up my babies. They were not really clean. I felt so excited to get this kind of material and information help for myself and for my baby. Even though our life is difficult, it is very heartening to receive a helping hand like this. It made me so happy. Even if someone might think it is a small amount, anyway I’m very grateful.”

With third child
With third child
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Organization Information

Refugee Empowerment International

Location: Minato-ku, Tokyo - Japan
Website:
Project Leader:
Jane Best
Minato-ku, Tokyo Japan
$6,397 raised of $20,000 goal
 
133 donations
$13,603 to go
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