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Health programme in Myanmar

Girl and child in Myanmar ©Bartosz Hadyniak/

Girl and child in Myanmar

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 an infant mortality rate of 62 per 1000 live births, according to a World Health Organisation report, 2014.

Ninety per cent of these deaths happen at home. The majority of Burmese women give birth at home, but this percentage is even higher for those living in rural areas. 

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 to help them make informed choices for their future.

VSO health projects

VSO's 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 with a specialism in public health is strengthening the professional competencies essential for healthcare management at the 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.  

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, making sure stafff are making the most of these facilities. Currently, five 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 Ministry of Health

In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, a Sexual and Reproductive Health specialist volunteer has been placed as an adviser at the Department of Maternal and Reproductive Health Services. The adviser'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.