Aye Mi San, 29, and her husband live in the Ma Kyi Mone village in Myanmar. Fewer than 400 people make up this small community, and the majority work in farming to produce wheat, beans and peanuts. Aye says: “I do anything that needs doing – reaping, peeling, cleaning. It is hard work, but it doesn’t pay a lot.”
Aye Mi San already had two children. She was particularly stressed during her recent third pregnancy, after hearing that her child would need to be born in hospital. A hospital stay would be expensive, and she was worried about the cost.
It was her Red Cross community health worker that first diagnosed Aye Mi San with high blood pressure. Aye Mi San says: “I was constantly worried. Not just because I had been told I had high blood pressure, but also because of money worries. I knew if I went to hospital I would have to pay for everything.
“During my first and second pregnancy I was in good health, but for the third one I was always dizzy and kept getting headaches. When I went to the community health worker they checked my blood pressure and said I needed to see the public health midwife.”
Recognising the need to call the public health midwife is an essential part of the job for Red Cross community health workers. The midwife for the Ma Kyi Mone community lives more than seven miles away and covers five other local villages, so it’s vital to make health decisions in plenty of time.
Aye Mi San says: “The community health worker connected me with the midwife, who came here to see me. My other children were born at home but, because of my high blood pressure, the midwife said I needed to be in hospital for this one. I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t understand why this was happening.”
The nearest hospital is more than one-and-a-half hours drive away, and most people have to hire a car if they want to travel there. Aye Mi San says: “Luckily I was given cash for my transport to the hospital by the Red Cross. The community health worker came with me to the hospital too, so they helped to cover some of the costs.”
Because hospital stays are very expensive in Myanmar, Aye Mi San had to borrow extra money from relatives and neighbours. It was worth it to know that her baby was in safe hands. She says: “I arrived at the hospital and immediately I felt safe.”
Thanks to the pre-natal care his mother received, baby Wai Yan Kyaw was born without complications. At the time of publication, he is three weeks old.
Read more about our healthcare work in Myanmar