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From womb to world – Two stories from mothers in a refugee camp in Thailand

28-year-old Eh Nee K'Mwee Paw and 32-year-old Naw Tae Paw are well aware that pregnancy and childbirth can be associated not only with the joy of new life, but also with concerns about illness and death. Both women share the experience of pregnancy in a refugee camp in Thailand. Both women know the daunting worry for the life of their child and their own lives. The stories of Eh Nee K'Mwee Paw and Naw Tae Paw and their babies have a happy ending - thanks to thorough healthcare before, during and after birth in Malteser International's health facility.   

Every two minutes, a woman dies due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth.

Unfortunately, however, many pregnancies worldwide still end fatally, as a report from the World Health Organization in February 2023 shows: Every two minutes a woman dies due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Although maternal mortality has reduced by more than one-third from 2000 to 2020, the number of expectant mothers who die remains alarmingly high. 287,000 women died in 2020. A global comparison shows significant differences between countries in the Global South and countries in the Global North.

Naw Tae Paw: "The Malteser International health facility in the camp is very important for me. Without it, there would be a very big problem here."

"I was very worried about my baby when it became evident that there were problems with the delivery." It is Naw Tae Paw's fifth pregnancy. The 32-year-old has given birth to her four children at Mae La Oon camp. "The Malteser International health facility in the camp is very important to me. Without it, there would be a very big problem here." 

Naw Tae Paw fled Myanmar as a child and since then has been living in refugee camps in the border region near her old homeland, like around 100,000 other people. Surrounded by dense forest, the camps blend into the mountainous surroundings in northwestern Thailand. The freedom to move and seek employment outside the camps is very limited for the residents. As a result, they are dependent on the support of aid organizations, which work closely with them to provide food and water, shelter, health services, livelihood and educational opportunities.

When complications arose during the birth of Naw Tae Paw's youngest child, it quickly became clear that she needed to go to Mae Sariang to give birth, as the nearest hospital is located in this small town. The health facility in the camp can only provide the most important basic medical care. In case of complications, surgeries, or severe illness, the patients are transferred to a better equipped hospital in the city. The challenge lies in the fact that the journey from the camp to Mae Sariang involves a several-hour drive on rough, winding roads, accessible only by a four-wheel drive. It is in one of these vehicles that Naw Tae Paw, who was in labor, found herself. But her child did not wait for arrival in Mae Sariang. Despite the circumstances, everything turned out well for mother and child - thanks to a portion of luck and professional support: "On the way to the hospital, my baby was born. It was good that a midwife from the Malteser International health facility accompanied us. She helped me deliver my baby safely."

Eh Nee K'Mwee Paw: "I know that it is not easy for you, but as I can go through this, so can you."

28-year-old Eh Nee K'Mwee Paw was also accompanied through her pregnancy by the staff from our health facility. "When I found out I was pregnant, I went to the health facility. They took great care of me. My baby was also born there." It is Eh Nee K'Mwee Paw's first child. A girl. She names the little one with the chubby cheeks and blue eyes “Nana”. Postpartum examinations revealed that Nana has a congenital malformation of the intestine, known as Hirschsprung's disease, and problems with her kidneys. A shock for Eh Nee K'Mwee Paw. "When I learned that my baby had health problems, I was very sad. But I started to hope because we got support." Nana also received a referral to the hospital in Mae Sariang and then later to a larger one in the city Chiang Mai. During this difficult time, all the costs associated with the treatment process, accommodation, and food, as well as paperwork and transportation was taken care of by the Malteser International team in Thailand, so the young mother could focus on her child’s recovery. "For three months we were in the hospital. My baby is doing better, but she still has to go for follow-ups once or twice a month. The support from Malteser International is extremely valuable and helpful for my daughter and my family."

Eh Nee K'Mwee Paw wishes for other mothers the same support she has experienced and the perseverance she has mustered. To mothers worldwide who find themselves in a similar situation, she wants to say: "You have to be strong, don't give up, go to the hospital. I know that it is not easy for you, but as I can go through this, so can you. I will pray for you and wish you the best."

Your donation for mothers in need makes a difference

The stories of Naw Tae Paw and Eh Nee K'Mwee Paw and their children have happy endings. They show the critical difference that access to healthcare before, during and after birth can make to the life and health of mothers and children. We are committed to ensuring that even more women can exercise this right to a life of health and dignity.

Together, we can ensure that women around the world lead safe, healthy and empowered lives. With your donation, you give hope to women and mothers in need.

Our work in Thailand

Since 1993, Malteser International has been implementing a wide-ranging primary healthcare project for currently about 18,000 refugees in the two refugee camps Mae Ra Ma Luang and Mae La Oon on the Thai-Myanmar border. Our project includes both comprehensive measures to improve the health status of the displaced people from Myanmar, as well as the provision of water, sanitation, and hygiene. In addition to medical treatment in our facilities, we take care of, among other things, the referral of severe cases to Thai hospitals and accompany mothers and their babies during and after pregnancy and delivery, we provide therapeutic and complementary foods for malnourished mothers and children, and offer psychosocial support. This is possible thanks to the financial support through the European Union, other donors and private donations.

Solidarity and support for women in need - your Christmas donation

Nothing works without women. They provide, protect, care, organize, love, laugh, comfort - no matter where in the world, women and mothers are the social backbone of almost all communities. Nevertheless, women worldwide and especially in the Global South are disadvantaged in many areas of life and are particularly affected by social inequality. Conflicts, persecution and the consequences of natural disasters further exacerbate these inequalities.

In our projects, we are actively committed to women in order to promote a more just society. Let us work together to ensure that women worldwide live safe, healthy, and self-determined lives. Join us this Christmas and support women in need.

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