Access to knowledge brings hope to mothers in eastern Shan State

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Htet Htet Oo
UNICEF
UNICEF Myanmar/2018/Nyan Zay Htet

20 July 2018

In 2017, mothers in the small Wan Pan Akhar village in eastern Shan State began accessing nutrtion and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) services. These nutrtion and and health programmes are now changing how children are raised and have become a reason of happiness for mothers like Ma Thet Thet Aung.

KENG TUNG, July 2018 - Before Ma Thet Thet Aung became a full-time mother, she used to work as a teacher. “But, I really wanted to become a police woman. I think the uniform exude confidence,” says Ma Thet Thet Aung with a smile. “Ever since I became a mother, I look after my daughter; help my mother with house chores and take part in our community group discussions.” 

Ma Thet Thet Aung lives in Wan Pan Akhar village about an hour drive from Keng Tung town in eastern Shan State. The community group discussions, usually take place at the residence of the village head. It is also the same place where Ma Thet Thet Aung takes Ei Thet Mon, her 15 months old baby, for her growth monitoring.

UNICEF
UNICEF Myanmar/2018/Nyan Zay Htet
Ma Thet Thet Aung (24) and her daughter Ei Thet Mon, 15 months old, heading out to the Growth Monitoring Session at Wan Pan Akhar village, Keng Tung Township, Shan State.

“Ei Thet has always been a healthy baby, weighing 6.4 lbs at birth. The health workers always put her weight record in the green zone of the growth chart. She does not cry or get grumpy as much. I am thankful, especially, for the sessions I attended during her first six months. I received useful advice on how to take care of a child in the early months,” says Ma Thet Thet Aung, referring to the Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) support group sessions provided by the Malteser International with funds from Department for International Development (DFID) through UNICEF. The villagers refer to Ei Thet Mon as one of the healthiest babies and everyone finds it hard to put her on the weighing scale that is tied to a longyi.

UNICEF
UNICEF Myanmar/2018/Nyan Zay Htet
Ei Thet Mon is being put into a hammock-like longyi tied to a weighing scale with the help of a health educator and a mother at a growth monitoring session in Wan Pan Akhar village in Keng Tung, eastern Shan State.

"It is amazing how she keeps growing. She was just 9 lbs three months ago and now she is already 10.5 lbs. I am glad I knew how to take care of her when she fell sick last month.”

UNICEF
UNICEF Myanmar/2018/Nyan Zay Htet
A volunteer health worker from the village, takes record of Ei Thet Mon and other children’s weights on their growth charts.

But, not every mother has an all positive story as Ma Thet Thet Aung. Recently, her six months-old nephew’s weight record has dropped down to the red zone compared to his last. But help was not too far. Right away, health educators consulted her sister-in-law, Ma Soe Soe Khaing on what she needs to do to bring her son’s weight back to the green zone. Ma Thet also shares her experience with Ma Soe Soe Khaing regularly.

UNICEF
UNICEF Myanmar/2018/Nyan Zay Htet
Thet Thet Aung and her sister-in-law Ma Soe Soe Khaing, 26, sit for a chat where they share more information and exchange experiences in feeding their babies.

Mothers like Ma Thet Thet Aung and Ma Soe Soe Khaing find the group sessions as a platform to gather knowledge and share personal experiences on how to take care of their children. Many of them did not know that a child should be breastfed until they turn six months old.

UNICEF
UNICEF Myanmar/2018/Nyan Zay Htet
Ma Thet Thet Aung and mothers at the Infant and young child feeding (IYCF) group session led by health worker, Ma Aye Aye Aung after the growth monitoring session.

"I listen intently to what our auxiliary midwife tells us – that includes breastfeeding practices, nutritional values and important foods for our children. There are also cooking demonstrations.”

UNICEF
UNICEF Myanmar/2018/Nyan Zay Htet
Ma Thet Thet Aung taking part in the “cooking demonstration session” provided by Maltesar International with funds from DFID through UNICEF.

“Cooking session is one of my favourite. They provide mothers not just information on which food helps our children grow, but show us how to cook the food as well.”

UNICEF
UNICEF Myanmar/2018/Nyan Zay Htet
Ma Thet Thet Aung and 15 months old Ei Thet in their backyard in Wan Pan (Akhar)village in Keng Tung, eastern Shan State.

“Since Ei Thet Mon is my first child, I did not have much knowledge regarding specific foods that helps her grow and strengthen her immunity. But, thanks to this programme, mothers like me from small villages, are informed and we know how to take care of our children. Ei Thet Mon is healthy, happy and I want her to become a brave and strong woman who contributes back to her community.”