December 23, 2008 / 2:33 AM / 11 years ago

Myanmar mothers have poor access to healthcare

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Access to maternal healthcare in eastern Myanmar is inadequate and most expectant mothers suffer from poor nutrition, anemia and malaria, raising the risk of pregnancy complications, researchers said.

In an article in the medical journal PLoS Medicine, they said forced relocation doubled the risk of women developing anemia and greatly decreased their chances of receiving any antenatal care.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the United States and the Burma Medical Association surveyed 3,000 women along the border in eastern Myanmar and found that nearly 90 percent of them delivered their last baby at home.

“Coverage of basic maternal health interventions is woefully inadequate in these selected populations and substantially lower than even the national estimates for Burma, among the lowest in the region,” they wrote.

“Considerable political, financial and human resources will be needed to improve maternal health in this region.”

A skilled attendant, or midwife, was present at only five percent of births, and only a third of women had any antenatal or postnatal care, they said. Only a third of the women surveyed reported access to effective contraceptives.

Few women received iron supplements or used insecticide-treated bednets. Consequently more than half the women were anemic and 7.2 percent were infected with malaria. Many women showed signs of poor nutrition, they found.

They said human rights violations impacted greatly on women’s health. In the Karen region, more than 10 percent of households were forced to move, while in the Shan region many women reported forced labor, forced relocation, threats to food security, and direct attacks.

The odds of receiving no antenatal care services were almost six times higher among those forcibly displaced, it said.

Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Sugita Katyal

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