Baby Ma Thawda with a female villager

©BRC/ Xanthe Swift

This is a guest blog from Xanthe Swift, our agency regular giving manager, who recently visited Myanmar.

After an hour in the car, we arrive at the dirt road we are to travel by bullock and cart. At first, the oxen shy away from us – we’re told it’s because we have a strange smell – but they calm down once we’ve clambered into the straw-covered cart.

The farmer is skillful in his handling of the animals. Making short, crisp ‘clock’ noises with his tongue and touching the oxen lightly with a switch, he navigates the heavy and unruly cart along a muddy and pitted track.

After a further 45 minutes, we arrive at De Lone Bo – a small village of about 500 people. This is one of the 78 communities where – with our support – the Myanmar Red Cross is working to provide maternal and child health services over the next four years.

An oxen-drawn cart

©BRC/Xanthe Swift

A difficult delivery
The Red Cross has trained community health volunteers to help women in the village with ante- and post-natal care. This includes distributing iron and folic acid, and liaising with the regional government-trained midwife. The Red Cross also provides cash grants to cover the cost of delivering at a hospital or rural health centre.

I talk to Khin Zin Mae, 23, who was helped by the Red Cross. Her gorgeous, dimple-cheeked daughter is now four months old, but on Khin Zin’s delivery day the baby’s health was in danger .She says: “The midwife checked and said it was in the wrong position. I worried about the life of my baby and myself – that we could die.”

She was referred to the rural health centre and, thankfully, delivered her baby daughter, Ma Thawda Htun, safely.

Khin Zin holds baby Ma Thawda

©BRC/Xanthe Swift

An enormous debt
Khin Zin and her husband earn less than £1.50 a day – and that’s when they can find work. Having Ma Thawda at the health centre was very expensive for the family, costing the equivalent of £130. The Red Cross was able to provide around £30 towards the delivery fees, but Khin Zin still faces an enormous debt.

Khin Zin says: “Making an income is hard at this time and there isn’t work every day. The interest is always increasing – the rate is 10 per cent. My family has a very small plot of land. I have stress about paying the money back.”

Worrying about the birth of your child is something every mother experiences. But when healthcare is expensive and hard to access, and you earn less than £1.50 a day, that worry is compounded into a considerable amount of stress. It is a relief to know that the Red Cross is working with mothers like Khin Zin, helping them and their children to stay healthy during pregnancy and birth.

Read more about our work in Myanmar

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