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Myanmar, Republic of the Union of

Myanmar’s auxiliary midwives: Helping children get the best start in life

© UNICEF Myanmar/2005/Thames
During their training, prospective auxiliary midwives get hands-on training examining pregnant women.

By Jason Rush

YANGON, Myanmar, 14 April 2005 – The rural village of Kan Tha Phu, located on an island off Myanmar’s western Ayeyarwaddy coast, is many days travel and seemingly scores of years removed from the hustle and bustle of the capital city of Yangon. Most of Kan Tha Phu’s families are members of the Kayin ethnic group, as is auxiliary midwife Daw Khin San Myint.

Daw Khin San Myint’s job is to make sure that all of the pregnant women of her village know how to take care of their children, before and after birth. “I talk to them about the nutrients they need, and give them monthly checkups,” she says.

“In Myanmar, auxiliary midwives are often the only trained and capable health providers at the village level,” explains UNICEF Field Coordinator Jean Benoit Manhes. “And they don’t just cover one village. They can cover two, three or sometimes even six villages and communities. That’s why their role is more than just serving as a birth attendant. They are the first layer of the health system for these communities.”

© UNICEF Myanmar/2005/Thames
Auxiliary midwives work in their home communities, caring for friends and neighbours.

Classroom instruction and hands-on experience

UNICEF Myanmar strives to provide basic healthcare to children and families that live in some of the most remote, hardest to reach areas of the country, and Kan Tha Phu certainly qualifies as one such area. Travelling to Kan Tha Phu from Yangon requires an arduous journey over narrow, dusty roads that turn to mud in the rainy season – followed by another long day’s journey across a sea whose waters remain turbulent, even when the weather is fair.

Trained health workers who are always present in the village can provide help when they are needed most. UNICEF supports the training of auxiliary midwives like Khin San Myint across Myanmar. The organization also provides them with essential drugs, health supplies, clean delivery kits and other materials needed to keep mothers and children healthy.

Training for auxiliary midwives covers basic first aid skills, safe delivery, newborn care, immunization, nutrition and hygiene.  Students also learn when to refer mothers or children to hospitals.

© UNICEF Myanmar/2005/Thames
UNICEF trains auxiliary midwives like Khin San Myint in safe delivery, newborn care, first aid and patient referral.

In addition to classroom instruction, students get hands-on experience examining pregnant mothers and observing deliveries. After their training they complete a three-month internship before assuming their official duties. 

Under the guidance of an experienced nurse or midwife, trainees visit households to conduct health checks for pregnant women, assist with childbirth, provide post-birth care to mothers and newborns and share important information on preventative healthcare. 

UNICEF’s investment in training auxiliary midwives is paying off for new mother Ma Wai Wai Maw and her 15-day-old daughter. “Before I had my baby, [Auxiliary Midwife] Daw Khin San Myint told me about good foods to eat while I’m pregnant, and gave me iron tablets to treat anaemia,” says Wai Wai Maw. “Since I had my baby she’s providing her with regular care, and has taught me how to hold my baby when I breastfeed.”




KAN THA PHU, Myanmar, April 2005:
UNICEF Communication Officer Jason Rush reports on how UNICEF is helping babies and their mothers.

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