Community Health Worker Series: Lauo Nguen

8 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 two firsthand stories from SWAN auxiliary midwife Lauo Nguen below. *Trigger warning: mention of sexual assault*

A woman who had two easy births did not tell us that she was expecting her third child, and she gave birth alone. At 5 am, Community Health Workers were called when the placenta failed to come out. The mother was in a lot of distress. She had lost a lot of blood and was turning very pale. I decided I needed to get her to hospital straight away if we were going to be able to save her life. There was a car available in the village, but no driver. I only had a learner’s license, but I knew I had to do it. The woman had no money, and I knew the hospital would not treat her unless we paid in advance. I ended up borrowing money. The mother survived and is still here to look after her three children.

One of the women in my village has been mentally disabled since birth. She has no education and lives alone with her mother. A man in the village took advantage of her disability – he raped her and she became pregnant. Hidden away, she gave birth with no help from Community Health Workers. We did not know about her pregnancy. After the birth, she got very sick. I was called in to treat her from life-threatening complications and to help her recover. I gave the grandmother advice on how to support the mother and her new-born. I also provided effective contraception to ensure she will not fall pregnant under those traumatic circumstances again.

Lauo Nguen and her daughter, April 2019. All photos taken in our SWAN Community Health Worker Series 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 feel drawn to support our work financially, this would be one great way to do it.

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