In rural Myanmar, medical help can be incredibly hard to find. But when a birth went wrong in her village, volunteer midwife Mar Lar Win stepped up to save a mother’s life.
Thiry-year-old Mar Lar Win lives in the village of Lungpi. She has always felt a calling to help her community. She says: “I have delivered many babies in the village, but one birth stands out the most.
"One of my neighbours decided to have a non-assisted, traditional birth and didn’t call for my help. However after delivery, her placenta remained in her uterus, which can cause severe bleeding and death."
“Her family called me and I quickly went to her home to help remove the placenta, which meant that she survived. Her family was so relieved and I was happy to have saved a life.”
Mar Lar Win is one of 80 Myanmar Red Cross Society volunteers trained in midwifery. They work in remote villages in the country’s Chin, Sagaing and Mandalay regions. As well as helping mothers during births, the midwives teach communities about important health issues and support pregnant women, mothers and babies. Their work is supported by the British Red Cross.
“I know what care pregnant women need”
Mother of three Mar Lar Win says, “I know what it is like to be pregnant and live far from health facilities or in a village where there is no doctor. I also know what kind of care pregnant women need, as I have been there myself. So when I heard about this opportunity to train to be an auxiliary midwife I jumped at the chance.”
The auxiliary midwives and their fellow community health workers – also Red Cross volunteers – tell people in their villages how they can protect themselves and their children through immunisation, pre-pregnancy checks, a good diet and personal hygiene. The volunteers are a vital lifeline in areas with no doctors and where the nearest clinic or hospital can be hours away.
Requests for the midwives to help deliver babies have more than tripled since the programme began in 2013. It’s a demanding role, as Mar Lar Win explains.
“Most women give birth at night and so I often get called out very late. This can be hard because I also have a family and three small children to look after. But whenever I am called, I go to assist. I feel that this is my responsibility.
"Every life saved and every woman and child helped is a gift.”