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‘Seven things this year’ encourages mothers of young children to practice key health interventions

© UNICEF Myanmar/2013/Wendy Myint-Myint Hla
Nan Klé Klé (far right), Leader of ‘Seven Things This Year’ Initiative in Taung Tan Su Ward of Hpa-an Township and her seven-member core group with the wife of village Ward (far left)

by Wendy Myint-Myint Hla

Hpa-an, Kayin State, 24 July 2013 – “I now wash my hands with soap before eating” says Nan Klé Klé, 27 years old, a leader of ‘Seven Things This Year’ Initiative of Taung Tan Su Ward in Hpa-an Township.

Nan Klé Klé came to learn this simple practice lately. She adopted this new behaviour after she participated in ‘7 Things This Year’ Initiative’ as a Leader for Taung Tan Su Ward of Hpa-an Township. 

Before joining this project, Nan Klé Klé would only rinse her hands with water only before eating and she did not have a habit of washing her hands with soap after using the toilet.

Since Nan Klé Klé is the only person in the village who went to a high school, the wife of the Ward authority selected her to participate in this Initiative. After joining this Initiative, she imparted her knowledge on the seven things to six core members in her village so that they themselves can lead another group of seven to discuss health issues of their family members and in the surrounding area. 

Now that she has become knowledgeable and empowered to do one of the key seven things, she is as gratified as ever for having participated in this Initiative. 

The Seven Things are: exclusive breastfeeding; nutrition for pregnant women; immunization, use of ITN (insecticide treated nets), Hand washing at critical times, home care of sick child, and Recognizing danger signs and if found, to go to a health centre. 

Like Nan Klé Klé, the other core member expressed how she was able to influence her daughter to practice one of the seven things.  “I was able to convince my daughter to exclusively breastfeed her child until six months as she was about to leave her child of 45 days with me to work in a neighbouring country. I also tell all pregnant and lactating mothers to exclusively breastfeed their child until six months,” says Daw Hla Nay, a part-time farmer, and a core member of the Initiative led by Nan Klé Klé.
 
Hpa-an Township being situated close to neighbouring Thailand, many young couples go there for better employment opportunities.  But once a mother becomes pregnant, she would return to her hometown to give birth and leave her child with her mother before rejoining the husband. Daw Hla Nay is determined to take the challenge of convincing more mothers to breastfeed their child until six months.

© UNICEF Myanmar/2013/Wendy Myint-Myint Hla
Nan Klé Klé with her 4-year-old son in their home in Taung Tan Su Ward of Hpa-an Township

Naw Klé Klé and her group of seven meet every month to discuss health and nutrition issues in the village. They explain to all pregnant and lactating mothers to eat a variety of food to get well balanced nutrition.  They go house after house to ensure that there are no standing water in the surrounding area or water storage uncovered in the homes so that mosquitoes do not breed for fear of dengue fever now that the rainy season has started. 

Nan Klé Klé had more to add: “We are experiencing the benefits of participating in this Initiative in the village, for example, we now sleep under bed net especially we make sure our children sleep under bed net even during daytime.”

All of them have become empowered not only to practice but also to impart their knowledge to their members and their neighbourhood.  This was agreed by Nan Moe Moe San, midwife of Naung Ka Myine Village who covers 6 villages including Taung Tan Su Village.  “The members are very helpful to me in many ways.  They would ensure that mothers come to me and if necessary, they also arrange to send pregnant mothers to hospital in Hpa-an Township” concurred midwife Nan Moe Moe San.

The ‘Seven Things This Year Initiative’ started in two Townships of Myanmar and have now expanded to three more Townships this year. In every Township, a leader is selected from a village to participate in the Initiative who will then impart knowledge on critical child health interventions to six core members.  All seven core members are tasked to form and lead another seven-member group to discuss child-related issues and to take care as much as they can in the neighbourhood.

Daw Yi Htwe, 40 years old and a mother of seven of Kaw Yin Auk Village discloses: “We encourage all mothers to immunize their children. Some mothers were afraid to go for additional dose when their children got fever.  We told them that there is no harm and that it is safe for the children so more mothers are now bringing their children for immunization,” she added.  Another forty-nine member of also utters her involvement in Kaw Yin Auk Village.

Daw Ah Too, 37 years old Muslim lady, of Kaw Yin Auk Village, who is pregnant and a mother of 6 children, says that: “In my religion, we are taught to wash our hands and feet with soap at critical times, so we already practice.  But I also join my members together with village authorities to encourage our neighbours to dig a pit for construction of sanitary latrine.  At Buddhist ceremonies in the village, we provide soap and water to the guests.  We would remind guests with a loud speaker every half an hour to wash their hands before and after eating.” 

Daw Ah Too also noticed, as she lives close to the rural health centre, that dengue fever prevalence has become less due to their effort. She used to find about 10 to 15 cases every year at the RHC, but this year she found only one case so far.

While all the family members of the forty-nine group members of Kaw Yin Auk Village have started to practice hand washing at critical times, they also admit that it is sometimes difficult to convince some mothers whom they impart knowlege.  However, she was told to be patient if they do not follow practice at once.  “When I joined the Initiative I was told that I must be patient if the mothers whom we impart knowledge do not practice at once,” says Daw Khin Yee, a Leader of Kaw Yin Auk Village.  She understands that her role in the Seven Things This Year Initiative is not only to impart knowledge but also to help solve the health problems of the pregnant mothers and under-5 children.

The Seven Things are: Exclusive Breastfeeding; Nutrition for Pregnant Mothers; Immunization, Use of ITN, Hand washing at critical times, Home care of sick child, and Recognizing danger signs and if found, to go to a health centre.  Seven Things This Year Initiative started last year in two townships of Myanmar and have now expanded to three more Townships this year. In every Township, a leader is selected from a village to participate in the Initiative who will then impart knowledge on critical child health interventions to six core members.  All seven core members are tasked to form and lead another seven-member group to discuss child-related issues and to take care as much as they can in the neighbourhood.

 

 

 
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