By Jane Best and Angie Alexander | Project leaders
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.
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