Thirty hard-to-reach villages in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady region have received vital healthcare services thanks to mobile health clinic boats provided by Islamic Relief.

Impoverished Ayeyarwady is prone to disasters such as cyclones and flooding, and has a critical shortage of medical services and staff. With poor public transportation, even for those who can afford to pay for medical treatment, getting to the nearest hospital takes most of the day. Sick people are carried on the backs of relatives or transported in small rowing boats, which are particularly hazardous in poor weather.

Faced with such challenges, many local people prefer traditional remedies or the advice of untrained healthcare workers.

Reaching communities by water or land

Thousands of school-children received medical treatment and vaccines.

To provide the remote communities with lifesaving and life-changing healthcare, the Islamic Relief project used specially designed boat health clinics. Where boats weren’t suitable, 4x4s vehicles were used or determined staff made the trek on foot.

The core medical team was joined by government staff including doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists and female health visitors – making it a collaborative effort that helped to build the trust of local people in government healthcare providers.

Carrying out 121 visits in just a year, the regular clinic provided free curative care and helped local people to reduce their risk of becoming ill in the first place.

Healthcare for all who need it

Serving groups that typically struggle to access healthcare in the traditionally patriarchal villages – such as women, children disabled people and older people – was a priority for the project.

Rosy Win received treatment after injuring her back.

Rosy Win, 62, slipped and hurt her back when collecting rainwater. Unable to walk due to the pain, she told us she felt fortunate that the mobile medical team came to her village.

“Best of luck came to me. They gave me an injection and tablets. I feel better now. Now, I can take a walk. Thank you so much.”

The project supported a children’s immunisation programme and provided de-worming tablets to over 8,000 children. It helped ensure more than 33,600 people were vaccinated against encephalitis, and aimed to protect local people from the parasitic disease filariasis, too.

Thousands of children benefited from dental care as well as health screenings, and about 9,000 children learned about good hygiene and basic food and nutrition.

“[My son] had a cough and was wheezing,” said the mother of five-month old Tay Zar Lin. “So, I had him checked by the mobile medical team when they visited our village. He got treatment, and received medicine. Now, my baby is better.”

Helping communities to become healthier

Five-month old Tay Zar Lin is well again, thanks to the project.

Scores of local people, particularly birth attendants, were given lifesaving first aid training. Thousands of local people were shown how to prevent and recognise common diseases such as colds and influenza as well as potentially deadly diarrhoea, malaria and dengue fever. Other health-boosting topics included water sanitation, hygiene and nutrition.

The project, which ended in October 2018, was delivered by local partner Myanmar’s Heart Development Organization (MHDO). Over 9,100 people received treatment – more than we hoped when the project began – and 665 patients were referred to hospital for specialist treatment.

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