Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

Myanmar: UNICEF-supported initiatives are keeping children healthy



UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Myanmar/2005/Thame
Midwife Zar Phyu Wint cares for children and pregnant women in tsunami-affected A Sin Chaing and 10 other nearby villages in Myanmar.

By Jason Rush

KYAUK KA LAT, Myanmar, December 2005 – One of the first things a visitor notices when arriving in this seaside village is the happy sound of children’s voices in the salty ocean air, as they run through green fields or play in dusty lanes. While Kyauk Ka Lat has received various kinds of post-tsunami assistance, the thing most valued by village residents has been the health of their children – which has been a UNICEF priority ever since the disaster.

In the days and weeks following the tsunami, UNICEF worked to ensure that children and families were protected against communicable and waterborne diseases, which constitute the most acute threat to their health and survival.

While these goals were largely realized, children continued to face a range of other threats to their health – threats which had existed before the tsunami. UNICEF continues to support a full range of activities in tsunami-affected areas that are protecting the lives and well-being of children.

“UNICEF is providing children in tsunami-affected communities with vitamin A supplements to protect them against blindness and infection,” says UNICEF staff member Khin Moe Moe Aung. “And children in primary schools are being given de-worming medication to protect them from parasites that can contribute to malnourishment and hinder their growth.”

UNICEF supplies the vast majority of vitamin A capsules in Myanmar, with more than 5 million children between 6 months and 5 years of age receiving vitamin A this year alone. UNICEF also supports nationwide de-worming for children aged between 2 and 9 years old. It has also provided 70 million iron folate tablets to 350,000 pregnant women across Myanmar this year.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Myanmar/2005/Thame
Children receive de-worming tablets in Phone Daw Pyae, Ayeyarwaddy Delta, Myanmar.

Education for health

“Providing pregnant women with iron folate tablets affords them protection against anaemia, which can lead to underweight children and complications during birth,” says Khin Moe Moe Aung.

UNICEF-trained auxiliary midwives oversee the administration of these programmes in tsunami-affected communities, and monitor the health of children and pregnant women in the villages where they work.

Auxiliary midwife Zar Phyu Wint makes regular home visits in tsunami-affected A Sin Chaing and 10 other nearby villages, providing pre-natal care to pregnant women. She helps educate women about the benefits of vitamin A, good nutrition, and proper pre-natal care, and tries to ensure that children are receiving the nutrients they need to grow and flourish.

“Once children begin eating supplementary foods, it’s important for them to have plenty of green and yellow fruits and vegetables, along with vitamin A supplements,” she tells a group of mothers. “This will help ensure that they grow well, boost their body’s resistance to disease, and protect them from vision impairment.”

“In addition to providing health assistance, UNICEF has equipped schools in tsunami-affected areas with water pumps and water storage tanks, and now the students and their families have easier access to safe, clean water,” says UNICEF staff member Khin Moe Moe Aung.

“More families are also using sanitary latrines now thanks to UNICEF assistance, and UNICEF-supported hygiene education is being provided to students in school.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Myanmar/2005/Thame
Children in Phone Daw Pyae, Ayeyarwaddy Delta, Myanmar, drink from a clean water tap installed by UNICEF after the tsunami.

UNICEF’s triangulated approach

Students in Phone Daw Pyae Primary School sing a fun, lively song they’ve learned about good hygiene habits. Their voices echo off the school’s concrete walls as they pantomime washing their hands and face.

“Now that the students have been able to start using proper latrines built with UNICEF assistance, it is much easier for us to teach students about good hygiene,” says Phone Daw Pyae Primary School teacher Win Win Pyone.

The lessons haven’t been lost on third-grader Zin Phyo Khine. “We need to use fly-proof latrines, eat clean food, and wash our hands after using the toilet to protect ourselves from diarrhoea,” she says.

Using a ‘triangulated’ approach – providing children with medical care and essential nutrients, clean water and sanitary facilities, and by helping them learn about steps they themselves can take to protect their health – UNICEF is working with tsunami-affected communities to help their children stay healthy not only today, but far into the future.

The challenges are great. Myanmar continues to have among the highest child mortality rates in Southeast Asia. Many families living in remote, coastal areas continue to lack access to dependable medical care and other basic social services for their children. UNICEF and its partners are working to reach more of these disadvantaged children, not only in tsunami-affected areas but throughout Myanmar, to provide them with the basic health care and social services they need.


 

 

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UNICEF correspondent Rachel Bonham Carter reports on the organization’s work to help protect the health of children in Myanmar’s tsunami-affected areas.

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Official updates

Children and the Tsunami, A Year On:
A Draft UNICEF Summary of What Worked [PDF]

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