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

This project continues to bring critical support and hope to mothers and their babies on the border of Thailand and Myanmar in the form of baby kits, health awareness training and supplemental nutrition.  

Because of our long-term dedication to this project, we have been able to see the actual impact this project is making in Karen State.  One example of this is maternal and infant mortality rates in Ee Htu Hta camp have fallen since baby kits have been introduced. In 2013, 2 mothers and babies died.  In 2016, 3 babies died. There were no deaths reported in 2017. This drop has been directly attributed to improvements in health and hygiene

So far this year, 300 mothers have received baby kits which include washing soap, body soap, baby wraps, nail clippers and a health message detailing maternal and infant care.  While these items may seem very basic, they are mostly foreign to the mothers who receive the kits.

And while these kits are usually distributed to mothers prior to giving birth, they have proven extremely valuable to mothers and their underweight babies who have recently displaced by unrest in the Karen State.  

Additionally, this project continues to deliver vital health awareness training on a variety of topics -- from infant and young child feeding to malnutrition -- to not only mothers but to entire communities across 7 districts in the Karen State, reaching over 3,500 people.  The most popular session has been on the topic of food groups and discusses the benefits of eating meals comprised of several food groups. In the Karen State, meals mostly consist of only one food group - even for children -- and fail to meet daily dietary needs. This often results in poor nutrition and can easily be addressed by adding additional food groups to meals.     Simple messages imparted during these sessions can have positive impacts on the physical and mental well-being of participants and their families.

Your continued generous support is helping to reduce maternal and infant mortality, improving the lives of the most vulnerable members of the Karen community.  Thank you for your dedication to this project! We are extremely grateful.



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Proud and confident new mother
Proud and confident new mother

The distribution of baby kits along with training and food support is proving more and more essential as the situation inside Myanmar continues to deteriorate.

Many NGOs have withdrawn support for those displaced in the region as competing priorities arise and this has led to food and health rations being cut in half within refugee camps and internally displaced (IDP) communities. In Ei Htu Hta IDP camp, home to around 2600 adults and children, these rations have been entirely stopped, forcing people to forage for food in the surrounding areas. This emphasises the importance of providing nutritional supplements to pregnant mothers. The expectant mothers receive 1kg of beans every month for the 3 months leading up to giving birth.

In Mu Traw district in Karen state, Myanmar, 20 nutrition awareness sessions were held in response to requests from the local community. Mothers are spreading the word about good nutrition as learnt during the sessions.

One mother said “I can share this information with other women so that it will help other babies. There are still stereotypes in our community which will need constant health awareness raising to reduce this kind of wrong thinking.”

Since the training, Mu Traw district has experienced incursions by soldiers seeking to recruit people for forced labour causing thousands to flee their homes. This is a worrying development but the women are strong after years of uncertainty and they will carry the information they have learned to their new communities.  

Refugees and IDPs have been living with insecurity and instability for decades but this project continues to provide hope and stability to expectant mothers, their babies, and the local community through critical healthcare training, nutritional supplements and baby kits. RIJ remains committed to supporting these neglected communities and assuring them that they have not been forgotten.

Your contributions make this essential support possible.

Fathers share the caring
Fathers share the caring
Group training session
Group training session
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Mothers meeting to discuss health message
Mothers meeting to discuss health message

The distribution of baby kits to IDPs inside Karen state, Myanmar has brought great benefits to families and communities as women learn more about caring for their children and for themselves. Despite the ceasefire community workers continue to encounter obstacles as they move around between the villages and often reaching medical assistance can take days. It will take many years for proper, functioning health systems and infrastructure to be developed and in the meantime community-led health initiatives, like the baby kit project, are essential for minimizing the impact of the poor and under-resourced health programming of the central government.
Educating individual communities is certainly proving one way to counter these problems. We have seen how the distribution of the baby kits strengthens the capacity of people at district and township level as well as benefiting the women and babies. More and more women are becoming empowered as they improve their understanding of the issues relating to pregnancy and care for their babies. For example, some women said that before they attended these sessions, they never knew that the first milk is good for the newborn babies. They always used to throw away the first milk, and then they did not feed their child sometimes.

In the coming months, the project will continue to distribute a further 600 baby kits to displaced communities along with nutritional support and training.
The nutrition aspect of the programme provides women with 1kg of beans every month from their 3rd month of pregnancy. Women feel the immediate benefit of this because there is a good deal of ignorance in about nutrition. Few mothers are aware that some foods affect the growth of the baby.
One mother of 29 years old, living in Hpa-An district in Karen state has 2 children. She received the baby kit package with health message for the youngest one. She said that by joining the nutrition awareness raising session she found out that there are certain foods that are good for pregnant women, foods that she used to believe were not good for pregnant women to eat such as eggs and some wild vegetables. There is the mistaken belief in the community that eggs can make the baby fat and it will be difficult for them to deliver the baby. She also learnt that there are certain kinds of wild or farmed vegetables that you must avoid during your pregnancy because it will make your baby sick or weak. She said “I am very happy that I joined the awareness raising session and I can share this information with other women so that it will help other babies. There are still stereotypes in our community, which will need constant health awareness raising to reduce this kind of wrong thinking.“

As donors prioritise development projects inside Myanmar RIJ continues to support those communities that are being neglected.

Visitors are welcome in remote villages
Visitors are welcome in remote villages
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Baby with hope for the future
Baby with hope for the future

This project report is a submission to GlobalGiving’s 2017 Fail Forward Contest, where organizations are asked to share a story of when they tried something new that didn’t go as planned and how they learned from it. Enjoy!’

Unlike many other of the entries for the GlobalGiving Fail Forward contest, RIJ's story is slightly different. Rather than a failure of results, we have learned from our failure to achieve full commitment to our core values.

For every challenge we have encountered over the past 38 years, we have learnt how to better evaluate projects to ensure that the three core principles of community, empowerment and sustainability are met in all projects. This is due to the lessons we have learnt through failure to achieve a lasting impact across all projects.

We strive to ensure that projects better reflect our core values that have been upheld firmly since RIJ was founded.

We now know that all RIJ funds do not merely provide quick, temporary aid, but they go well beyond that, providing refugees with the means to improve their lives and community for the long term. Our funds empower refugees and their community, providing hope and opportunity to help build a brighter and better future for them and their families.

Two examples can be found in projects we support on the Thai-Burma border. As a result of years of persecution and violence committed in their home country, many refugees have been living in camps on the border for 20 years or more. One of the primary projects that RIJ has had a close partnership with for many years has been the provision of baby health kits to mothers living in refugee camps and those living within Karen State in Burma.Through decades of neglect, the government health system now ranks among the worst in the world and rates of maternal and newborn child mortality are some of the worst in the world.

This project initially addressed this issue, by providing kits containing baby and laundry soap, nappies and sarongs. This ensured that mothers and their new-born children’s basic hygiene needs were met within these camps. However, the results were not far-reaching and lacked sustainability. It was felt that more attention should be placed on ensuring sustainable solutions for maternal health issues within this region. The first step was the inclusion of a health message in the kit, providing guidance on looking after the baby as well as the mother. For most of these women, before this, they had received little to no antenatal education about pregnancy, birth and caring for a newborn, so the leaflet had a big impact on the long-term health of mothers and babies. Then in 2014, RIJ funding included a 14-day women’s health training workshop. By establishing training workshops alongside the existing project, RIJ ensured sustainability and continuity as women were given the skills and resources to empower themselves and their community, understanding how to care for themselves ante and post-natally, as well as look after their newborn baby.

Naw Ma Hei Paw, a young mother who was involved in this project, said “When I delivered my baby, I got a baby kit. It was very valuable for me. The kit fulfilled my needs and really helped my family. I was so happy that a tear came out when I saw it. In the past, I have never cleaned my babies with soap, I cleaned them with fruit. This is the first time I can clean my baby with soap and I can see she is happy and healthy. I hope the project will continue to help other mothers and babies”.

The other example is an addiction programme in camps along the Thai-Burma border for refugees with drug and alcohol addiction. Originally the clients underwent a course of treatment that achieved good results at first but people found there were few opportunities beyond the treatment. The programme now includes community worker training and many former clients have become community workers. They have an important role in the community and feel they are contributing to the common good and providing a positive role model for others.

One client said: “The things that has kept me from slipping back, is my determination to be a valuable part of the community, and the promises I made to my family. For the future I want to avoid all the bad things that could make me fall back into abuse.”

Through these challenges, RIJ has emerged as a stronger organisation that is having more impact both through direct and indirect beneficiaries within refugee communities around the world. Where we saw shortcomings in the support provided, we learnt to strengthen our support to ensure sustainable and durable solutions. This has taken us forward to make a more lasting impact in the distribution of funds.

John is now proud to be a community worker
John is now proud to be a community worker
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Growing up healthy
Growing up healthy

At a time when many NGOS are withdrawing support from the region, your generous donations are even more vital to ensure that women and their babies in camps in Myanmar can get a good and safe start in life.

Increasingly more and more donors have been withdrawing from the area along the Thai/Myanmar border, but the essential healthcare support, like these baby kits is still needed. While we understand the needs of those within other states of Myanmar, we know that refugees living on the Thai border and in IDP camps near the border still face challenges of normal living in camps with inadequate supplies. Although there is an official ceasefire in place, there is still a lot of violence and the military have many bases in villages, as well as large numbers of landmines that need to be cleared, before people can feel it’s safe enough to return home.

Children born in camps and settlements with poor provisions such as safe water supplies and inadequate toilets are most likely to die within the first five years of life. In Karen state, where these camps are based, the rate of maternal and neonatal mortality is one of the highest in the world and these baby kits provide essential support to give both mother and baby a better chance at surviving.

Through decades of neglect, the government health system now ranks among the worst in the world. Community based projects like this are essential to address the dire situation and the rates of maternal and newborn child health. It is likely to be years, if not decades, before a fully functioning health system is in place.

The baby kits provided in this project make a huge difference to people’s lives – not only through improved support at birth, but also in the longer term as mothers learn how to nurse their babies and teach others along the way. Providing mothers with basic nutrition and training community workers extends the benefits into the wider community and reaches more and more people each year. Women learn that certain foods can counteract the benefit of other foods and learn that certain wild vegetables can actually be harmful to them and their children. This is a benefit that goes beyond the immediate purpose of the project. The psycho-social aspect of this project is also valuable as it makes mothers feel cared for and alleviates the loneliness of giving birth in strange surroundings.

One mother said, “I am so happy that I can share this information with other mothers. We need such health awareness training to reduce this kind of wrong thinking.”

With your kind support, RIJ can continue raising global funds for local projects like this. Through RIJ, you can support sustainableprojects that work at a local level in communities to empower refugees to build a brighter and better future. Thank you.

In the IDP camp
In the IDP camp
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Organization Information

Refugee Empowerment International

Location: Minato-ku, Tokyo - Japan
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @REI_intl
Project Leader:
Jane Best
Minato-ku, Tokyo Japan
$7,255 raised of $20,000 goal
 
149 donations
$12,745 to go
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