Community Health Worker Series: Sam Pount

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 Sam Pount’s experiences as an auxiliary midwife below:

Culturally, it is not usual for women in the villages to be educated and train to work outside the home. I was very shy and living at home with my parents as I am not married. My parents did not want me to go anywhere else or move around, just to stay near my home in the village with her family. After my father died, I was then able to study the Government auxiliary midwife course and join SWAN as a trained health worker. As a result, I am far more confident and travel all around. I am not intimidated by soldiers anymore.

After I graduated from my health training, I grew in confidence and started to work with and help my sister who is qualified as a nurse. I met a pregnant lady and was helping her as a midwife. Unfortunately the baby was in a breach position and during the birth, one leg emerged first. This was an emergency situation and the people around her suggested getting her to the local hospital for help. The family did not have money for the hospital so they begged myself and my sister to help them. We gave her injections and were able to get the baby out safely. I was very proud that there was a successful outcome despite the incredible risks.

During the 2015 conflicts between the Burmese army and Shan state army (SSPP) there were over 1000 refugees from 7 villages. There are usually four health workers but two were not able or willing to work because of the intimidation they felt. I was therefore one out of two health workers for the whole area with many needs. I continued my valuable work with confidence. Some mothers were giving birth while fleeing the fighting. I helped many women deliver their babies and I am proud that I was able to support them during this time of unrest.

Sam Pount, April 2019. All photos have been taken and informed with the consent 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 wish to support our work financially, this would be one great way to do it.

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