Chaw Su Hlaing and her husband lost their first baby when he was only two days old. The couple, from Chaung Ma Gyi village in the Sagaing province of Myanmar, are both 18 years old.
Chaw Su Hlaing says: “I had to collect firewood every day – up to the day I gave birth. I had labour pains for two days. I had no money to pay for the hospital, so I had to deliver at home. On the day of the delivery, I squatted in my home to deliver with the traditional village helper.
“My baby girl was born sick, with a skin disease all over her body. I don’t know why my baby died – I think it might be because I had to climb the hills to get firewood all through the pregnancy.”
Living on less than £1 a day
Chaw Su Hlaing is now three and a half months into her second pregnancy. She and her husband, Ye Min Paing, earn less than £1 a day, so stopping work before the birth is not an option.
She says: “I’ve felt tired for a month now with my current pregnancy. My husband said not to go to the woods for firewood so I stay here to cook, collecting and carrying water from the river. Sometimes I get casual labour – helping clean farmers’ houses as well as sorting peanuts, picking out the good quality ones.
“I earn less money with this work – only enough to buy vegetables. Sometimes we have to borrow money for daily expenses from neighbours. If I can’t pay the money back when requested, I’m looked down upon.”
“I would like to deliver this baby at hospital but I worry about money. It’s what I’d like, but it’s not my plan because I can’t afford it. I’d like to have a health clinic in the village where I and other women can deliver babies safely.”
A common problem
It is common for many women in rural Myanmar to give birth at home. Transportation to hospital and medical fees can cost more than £125 – the equivalent of a year’s earnings for some people. Access to a trained medical professional is also difficult – one midwife will often cover a large number of remote villages.
Chaung Ma Gyi, the village where Chaw Su Hlaing lives, is one of the 78 communities where the Red Cross is working to provide maternal and child health services.
Read more about how we’re helping mothers like Chaw Su Hlaing