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Health programme in Myanmar


Girl and child in Myanmar Bartosz Hadyniak/iStockphoto.com

Girl and child in Myanmar. Bartosz Hadyniak/iStockphoto.com

The health situation in Myanmar

Preventable deaths in childbirth

The number of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth is 200 out of 100,000. The child mortality rate is high, with infant mortality rate at 62 per 1000 live births. (Based on World Health Organisation report, 2014)

Ninety per cent of these deaths happen at home, where the majority of Burmese women, especially in rural areas, give birth. 

Deaths are in fact significantly higher in rural areas, where women have limited access to reproductive health services.

Most maternal deaths can be prevented through cost-effective interventions such as the presence of skilled birth attendants during deliveries, emergency obstetric care, and access to birth-spacing commodities and services.

The main constraints are limited access to health services due to poverty, geographical barriers, and a shortage of health personnel, especially midwives.

Additionally, nearly five per cent of all pregnancies end in illegal abortions, with women aged 15-19 years being the most vulnerable. Abortion complications is one of the leading causes of maternal deaths.

Taboo subjects

Sexual and reproductive health is still considered a taboo subject, making it challenging for young people to access accurate information which helps them make informed choices for their future.

VSO health projects

VSO Health Programme in Myanmar focuses on:

  • helping pregnant women and children receive quality maternal and child health services from skilled and competent staff
  • enabling youth and adolescents to make informed decisions on sexual and reproductive health and to access quality services

Safe Delivery - Mother and child care health services strengthening

This project in Central Myanmar (Natmauk and Yaenanchaung) is being implemented in partnership with the international charity Terre des Hommes Italy to improve the technical skills of midwives and auxiliary midwives. This includes the provision of antenatal care, delivery and post-natal care, and referral of complicated pregnancy cases.

In addition, a volunteer specialized in public health is strengthening the professional competencies essential for health care management at the Township Health Department level. In total 24 healthcare staff, including the township medical officer, station hospital doctor, and public health supervisors have been trained.

Samantha Jane Busby with mentee midwives and auxiliary midwives in Natmauk township, Magway region in Myanmar.

Volunteer Samantha Jane Busby with mentee midwives in Natmauk township, Magway region, Myanmar..Samantha is a midwife mentor working for Maternal and Child Health Centres and Rural Health Centres in Natmauk township.

Reforming pre-service midwifery education

Our partnership with Jhpiego, an affiliate of The Johns Hopkins University, aims to strengthen the capacity of the midwifery profession in Myanmar though the reform of pre-service midwifery education.  

VSO international volunteer mentors based at Midwifery Colleges are building the capacity of the teaching faculty in clinical teaching and competence-based assessments.

This strengthens the adoption of best practices to meet maternal and child health care, including lactation and family planning at community level. Volunteers monitor the use of the skills laboratories and e-libraries and work with staff to facilitate usage to full potential. Currently, 5 volunteers are placed at Yangon, Mandalay, PhaAhn, TaungGyi and Kalay midwifery training colleges.

Reducing Neonatal Mortality - Integrated neonatal nursing care

VSO is partnering with Pyin Oo Lwin and Shwe Bo hospitals in Mandalay region on an integrated neonatal nursing care project. Two paediatric nurse volunteers develop the clinical, management and planning skills of paediatric nurses to improve the standard of nursing care for newborns and their families.

Working with the Maternal and Reproductive Health Division of the Ministry of Health

In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, a Sexual and Reproductive Health specialist volunteer has been placed as an advisor at the Department of Maternal and Reproductive Health Services. The advisor's role is to update operational policies and regulatory mechanisms for information and service provision to adolescents and young people and to conduct research to identify ways to improve utilisation of youth services.

Are you interested in helping the development of our health programme? Please get in touch

Read Jennifer Sims’ account of her role as a nurse at the paediatric department of Pyin Oo Lwin general hospital.