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Saturday, 5 May 2012

Alison & her mission in Myanmar to celebrate International Midwives' Day

Alison Crabtree
Alison Crabtree
To mark International Midwives Day, Doctors of the World UK is highlighting the valuable work our international midwives do around the globe. We want to highlight the fabulous work of one them who is just back from Myanmar (otherwise known as Burma).  Alison Crabtree, originally from Yorkshire, is a midwife and also trained as a nurse.  She went to work in the Pyapon township of the Irrwaddy Delta region earlier this year.  It was an area that suffered major destruction when Cyclone Nargis hit the region in May 2008.

Alison has spent most of her working life in the Bradford area, as a multi cultural area it was an ideal background for working overseas.  However, she’s no stranger to midwifery abroad having taken a career break to work with 3 other non-governmental organisations in Afghanistan, Ghana and Angola before this mission with Doctors of the World.

Job title: Maternal and child health advisor
Duration of mission: 3 months from the 8th January until the 10th April 2012

Alison explains why the mission was so important:
“Access to good quality primary health care is very limited for the population in the rural areas of Pyapon Township -  84% of the total population of the area live there (approximately 127, 000 people). They really lack trained health professionals, health facilities and added to this there are geographic constraints.  All of this means overall there’s limited access to the public primary health care system. Local people tend to resort to unofficial healers and traditional birth attendants however, there are many risks.  Many of these so-called health gurus work unsupervised and often provide poor quality care.
Group lessons on maternity care
Group lessons on maternity care
The health system in Myanmar is centralised and severely underfunded. In 2009, the total expenditures on health represented only 2% of GDP( ). In addition, the health resources are not fairly distributed with most of the funding going on secondary healthcare, leaving the primary health sector under-resourced. The high maternal and infant mortality rate, 2.55 and 59.7 respectively per 1000 live births which demonstrates the seriousness of the situation. (In the UK the figures are 0.12 and 4.5 respectively.)

My work was part of the current community health project being implemented by Doctors of the World to improve the health status of the rural population.  The project is supporting 137 rural villages in the central, south-east and south Pyapon Township over a 2 year period. In fact the project aims to serve a rural population of approximately 127, 000 people.  Doctors of the World’s mission supports a network of community health workers, auxiliary midwives and, village health committees. It aims to improve health knowledge among the rural population.

I was working with the field team of national staff.  The team consisted of 8 nurses 3 nurses / midwives and 9 community facilitators.  The nurses / midwives role provide supervision to the Ministry of Health volunteers, community health workers and auxiliary midwives.  The rural population are fairly dependant on all of them.

I found what they need most medically are qualified nurses, midwives and doctors!  I signed up to do this mission because I enjoy this type of work, it is always challenging. I feel that I have something to offer in the way of education that is useful to the population.

The thing I learnt most is that one should never take for granted all the advantages we have with regard to health and education, housing, water and electricity.  It is only by experiencing day-to-day life in a situation when you have none of these luxuries do you really appreciate what you have back home.


I think volunteering is a personal thing and this sort of work would not suit everyone. You have to be able to adapt personally and professionally.  Personally, on this mission I learnt an appreciation of people who have lived under a restrictive regime."

If you are interested in volunteering overseas with us then have a look for more information.

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