Community Health Worker Series: Nang Mwe Khao

9 May 2019

HART is the main donor for SWAN’s Health Programme, which aims to reduce maternal, infant and child mortality rates in rural areas of Shan State, Burma, and amongst displaced populations in Thailand.

SWAN trains health workers and volunteers from inside Shan State, teaching them about reproductive health and family planning. They equip them with the knowledge and materials needed for preventative health education and provision of reproductive and maternal health care.

Read about Nang Mwe Khao’s experiences as an auxiliary midwife below:

A man arrived on a motorbike and told me that his wife had been two days in labour. He went down on his knees and begged me to come and help. I was reluctant to go because I did not want to get on a motorbike with an unknown man. In any case, after two days’ labour the woman would probably be dead by the time we got there, and the husband would blame me. However, the husband kept begging, so I agreed to go. It was a five-hour ride back to his village. The woman turned out to be only four feet tall, and the baby was large. I was able to deliver the baby, but it was not breathing. I resuscitated it by mouth-to-mouth, but then realised that the mother was in trouble. Her blood pressure had dropped very low. I put her on a drip, but that was not enough. So I put a drip in the other arm also, and the woman finally began to recover. The family was very poor and had only a tiny hut. However, I stayed there with them for two days, feeding the woman soup, before making the five-hour trip back home.

I was doing an antenatal check on a pregnant woman. When I listened with a stethoscope I heard two heartbeats, and as the woman was small in stature, I advised her to go to hospital. The woman refused. I was very nervous, because I had never delivered twins before. When the time for the birth came, the woman began bleeding profusely. Her heartbeat was getting faster and her blood pressure was dropping. I put a drip into each arm. I also put one hand inside the woman against the uterus, and with the other hand pressed from outside. The pressure was enough to stop the bleeding, and the woman lived.

Nang Mwe Khao keeps a photo of the first set of twins she delivered. All photos have been taken and informed with the permission of those interviewed.

How you can support SWAN Health Workers:

These dedicated, self-sacrificing volunteers act as midwives in remote areas, but have no idea of how to deal with breach births. As a result, many babies – and sometimes even mothers – die in a forlorn attempt to reach a hospital many hours away.

And yet the answer is close at hand. Dr Sasa, our partner from Chin State, spent five years working with a British doctor to create a handbook for Burmese midwives which is more than 95% pictures. It can be used by health workers from any language group, and even by those who are illiterate.

As an immediate, life-saving response, HART aims to buy 1000 copies of this handbook and to transport them to Shan State for use by the Community Health Workers. Each handbook costs $10 or £7.50.

If you feel drawn to support our work financially, this would be one great way to do it.

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