we provide Baby Kits to mothers with new born babies in Karen State, we strengthen the capacity of district and township level KWO as community managers, and we deliver nutrition education and women’s health education activities in the community.
We distribute around 700 Baby Kits per year in 8 sites: 7 districts in Karen State and one site of Ee Tu Hta IDP Camp near the Thai/Burma border, we provide maternal health education at the same time. In addition we offer capacity building in management, women’s health and nutrition for KWO members and staff in 24 Townships, extending this to KWO Executive Committee Members. At the grass roots community level, we offer nutrition education and women’s health education to at least 144,550 villagers, with a particular focus on women and girls, in the townships and villages throughout Karen State.
KWO successfully implemented the Baby Kit Project in refugee camps from 2002 to 2009 and has operated this project inside Karen State since September 2003. In 2009, due to funding shortfalls, KWO suspended the project in the refugee camps and allocated all the funds we had secured to the project in Karen State which we felt had the highest need of the two areas.
In our first year we received funding from Refugees International Japan (RIJ), UNICEF and The Border Consortium (TBC) have also provided funds in subsequent years. RIJ remains a funder. The project was separated out from its inception in Karen State, we ran the baby kits in the 7 districts of Karen State and held this as distinct from the IDP Camp in Ee Tu Hta where the project was implemented with some differences. RIJ funded the activities in Ee Tu Hta and TBC funded the activities in the 7 districts of Karen State. However, in 2013-14, KWO decided to merge the 2 projects into one because of their similarities and for ease of delivery.
This has allowed cohesion in approach, a streamlined funding process and staff to work together to expand the project. For instance, in recent years we have developed the health area of the project to increase community education activities, focusing on women’s health and promoting better nutrition for mothers, infants and young children.
We have faced and continue to face challenges in delivering this project. Funding levels for this project have fluctuated over its duration and in recent years we have experienced shortfalls in funding; yet through concerted efforts we have still managed to deliver this work and maximize opportunities for community health education. Due to security risks, we have faced difficulties in distributing baby kits to some areas or monitoring impact in these areas, these risks include the location of villages in active fighting areas and near the front lines (as front lines move). Staff safety is our priority, and we tell staff that if they do not believe an area is safe they should not go there, we trust staff on the ground to make these decisions with the information they have available. These challenges have resulted in a decrease in baby kit distribution.
Since 2011 when ‘military rule’ is said to have ended with the election of President Thein Sein which precipitated ceasefire agreements with some ethnic groups (though Tatmadaw incursions in to ethnic areas and Government land seizure for development projects continues) we have seen slow changes in the situation in Burma.
There are many obstacles to good health inside Burma, and maternal and child health in ethnic areas continues to be of a very low standard. Through decades of neglect, the government health system now ranks among the worst in the world. Surveys by community health organizations, (published in reports: The Long Road to Recovery and Diagnosis Critical) reveal that health in the ethnic areas is even worse than government figures reveal. It will take many years for proper, functioning health systems and infrastructure to be developed and in the meantime community-led health initiatives are essential for minimizing the impact of the poor and under-resourced health programming of the central government .
KWO is an ethnic women’s community-based organization that empowers women so they have capacity and power to solve their own problems and participate in decision-making that will affect their lives.
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