Update: Community Health and Maternal and Child Health Education in Shan State

August 21st, 2013

Update: Community Health and Maternal and Child Health Education in Shan State

The population of Shan State stands at approximately 5 million. Many Shan people have faced violent persecution at the hands of the Burmese military for generations. Years of conflict has also had a devastating impact on basic health and medical care. HART’s partner Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN) has worked tirelessly since 1999 to improve the health status of women and children living in rural areas of Shan State and along the Shan-Thai border. For many of these women and children this is their only source of basic medical care.

This year SWAN prioritised three key projects: community health centres, maternal and child health education programme and HIV/AIDS project.


SWAN currently runs three community health centres. Open every weekday, all year round, they provide free treatment and advice for basic health problems. In 2012, the centre was visited by over 2000 patients. Maternal care was a key priority at the centre which provided Anti-Natal and Post-Natal Care, monthly supplementary food and immunisations was also provided. Reproductive health was another top priority. Local women were given access to contraceptive services and monthly meetings were held to help improve knowledge of basic health care and reproductive health. Awareness was raised through the distribution of articles, published in SWAN’s newsletters and written in the local Shan language.


Excitingly, SWAN’s Reproductive Health training course in May 2012 was attended by 17 new health and/or social workers. Many of the health workers returned home to the Shan-Thai border and rural areas of Shan State to organise a number of health related activities. SWAN health workers also met with Shan university students to discuss various reproductive health issues. As a result a 3 day workshop was organised. Initially some of the students saw reproductive health as taboo, however many reported the usefulness of such a workshop. SWAN’s Maternal and Child Health Education Programme has had a huge impact on the lives of many women and children. There has been plenty of positive feedback. Village women often state how important SWAN’s health and education programmes are for the entire community.


SWAN’s HIV/AIDS project is a lifeline for HIV positive Shan migrants and refugees, enabling them to access medical services. In 2012 over 130 HIV positive patients received treatment and care. Services included; receiving ARV medicine, counselling, patient home visits, referring patients to district hospitals for treatment and providing infected children with milk. On 1 December 2012 SWAN project staff enjoyed the World’s AIDS Day celebration organised by hospital staff and the local community at Wiang Haeng Hospital. This was held to help relieve the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in the local communities.

Throughout 2012, SWAN was consistently monitoring and evaluating their current work with follow up discussions and consultation trips. In May 2013, SWAN participated in a 2-day National Health Strategic Meeting and the Shan Health Committee’s annual meeting; the current health projects and funding were reviewed and possible plans for the future were drawn up.

The amazing work conducted by SWAN is often subject to the political context in which they work. SWAN’s health programmes may have to be more flexible in response to the possibility many IDPs being ‘resettled’. More worryingly, since a ceasefire was signed there have been more than 50 armed clashes between the Shan State Army-South and the Burmese Army. These political tensions may affect some of SWAN’s Health Programme Activities in the future.

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