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In the rural, low income township of Shwe Pyi Thar, at the outskirts of Yangon live a group of remarkable female nurse-midwives who, on a voluntary basis, run a small maternity clinic. After years of wear and tear and with the roof collapsing, the clinic was in dire need of a renovation.

To give more mothers access to life-saving care, UNFPA is helping Myanmar to upgrade maternity wards and delivery rooms in health facilities. UNFPA contributed $30,000 for the refurbishment of the Shwe Pyi Thar maternity clinic. 

On 28 August, 2013 Daw Khin Thet Htay, Patron of the Yangon Region Supervisory Committee, the Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association (MMCWA) and Kaori Ishikawa, UNFPA International Programme Coordinator officially inaugurated one of the first clinics to reopen thanks to the renovation programme. Thanks to the funds the clinic was able to fix the roof and give the clinic a complete overhaul as well as buy new birth spacing supplies, equipment and beds. 

Baby Aye Thi Dar, born on 27 August 2013, was one of the first babies to benefit from the renovated clinic, coming into the world weighing a healthy 6.6 pounds (3 kilograms). Her delivery went without any complications. “I was very happy with the delivery and everyone has been so supportive. Having the baby at home is not as good, especially during the rainy season, and having the baby at the clinic is also a much safer option,” said Pale, the 26-year-old mom to Aye Thi Dar. 

After births at the clinic it is normal for mother and child to stay around three days, receiving post natal care and immunization for the baby. Each mom is issued a small kit of essentials for the baby as well as a booklet with useful tips on maternal health, and free regular check-ups at the clinic. 

The clinic operates with 13 beds and a team of volunteer nurses and one doctor. Since the re-opening of the clinic in May, the number of births has doubled. The clinic also provides advice to expectant mothers on pregnancy, child birth and post natal care. “In Myanmar we have a tradition of giving birth at home. We need to change this mind set by raising awareness and educate the community that it is much safer and healthier for all parties to deliver at the clinics,” said Dr. May Marlar, a volunteer doctor and advisor at the clinic. “If a complication were to arise during delivery, the township will arrange for free transport to the Central Women’s hospital in Yangon, accompanied by two nurses,” she added. 

UNFPA has allocated $300.000 to 10 locations all over Myanmar each receiving $30,000 for refurbishments and utilization of already existing maternity clinics. Locations include Yangon (3), Magwe (2), Shan State (3) and Ayeyarwaddy (2). 

As part of a joint UN programme UNFPA, WHO and UNICEF on improving maternal health, new born and child health, with support from Australian Aid (AusAID), UNFPA provided in addition medical equipment as well as training to health staff on reproductive health services and basic emergency obstetric care.