Improving the lives of children by providing access to health education
Providing access to health education
In Shan State of Myanmar, health educators demonstrate simple but healthy child feeding methods
KENG TUNG, July 2018 - Wan Pan Akhar is a small village, an hour of bumpy ride across the green paddy fields from Keng Tung town in eastern Shan State. Here is where Ma Aye Aye Aung lives with her family including her one-year-old boy, Kaung Htike San. In 2017, UNICEF started supporting the Ministry of Health and Sports to provide trainings on nutrition and MNCH practices for volunteer health workers in eastern Shan State. When the training opportunity came to her village, Ma Aye Aye Aung was one of the first to volunteer. “I enrolled to the auxiliary midwife training three months ago. Now, I have a strong passion to give back this knowledge to mothers like me in my community,” says Ma Aye Aye Aung.
According to the Demographic Health Survey, almost 1 in 3 children suffer from chronic malnutrition in Myanmar. In Shan State, more than a quarter of children are stunted. Infants and young children under the age of two are particularly vulnerable to undernutrition and growth faltering if they have low birthweight, are not exclusively breastfed, do not eat a diversified diet appropriate for their age and do not have adequate sanitation, hygiene and access to basic health care services.
With funds from the Department for International Development (DFID), UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Health and Sports through Maltesers International to train health workers, like Ma Aye Aye Aung, to provide community Infant and Young Child Feeding (cIYCF) sessions and other supports to mothers.
“It is important to provide adequate health and nutrition knowledge to mothers to help support their children during the crucial 1,000 days of a child’s life. Everyone should understand this. Children are our future,” says Ko Kyi Zin Ko, Nutrition and MNCH Project Team Leader of Malteser International in Keng Tung. Within six months, more than 40 people (including auxiliary midwives, community health works and mother-to-mother support group leaders) received the training in eastern Shan State.
“I learned that most mothers and caregivers in our community do not know which foods are nutritious for their children, especially right after children reach six months. I saw some babies’ weight drop into the red zone in the growth chart when they started eating solid food. This is due to low intake of nutritional foods needed for a child to grow and become healthy with strong immune system to fight illnesses,” says Ma Aye Aye Aung. “From the trainings I have attended, I know the important messages and recommendations I should give to mothers to help their children grow healthy and strong.”
“I always wanted to become a midwife. Now, I am fulfilling my dream and at the same time I am a fulltime a mother to my healthy little boy– I feel very proud. In the future, I hope to see many more volunteers like myself from this village and across the country.”