Savings Babies in Burma

THE VISION: By supporting the Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) Project, the Rotary Club of Sebastopol Sunrise is reducing the death rate of mothers and infants in the war torn area of SE Asia along the border between Burma and Thailand. The Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) Project is part of the Safe Motherhood Program of the Backpack Healthcare Workers Team and the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand. The Safe Motherhood Program provides training and equipment to TBAs (midwives) to improve the chances for healthy births for newborn babies and their mothers and also provides skilled emergency obstetrics staff for difficult births. Due to civil war conditions along the border, any medical facilities have been destroyed along with villages and the crops seized to support the army. Training midwives who live in areas that lack permanent health care clinics, doctors or nurses is a key strategy for coping with the impact of the long-standing war.

The TBA project provides “train the trainer” programs at the Mae Tao Clinic on the western border of Thailand near Burma. The TBA trainers then walk into Burma with supplies to last six months on their backs and provide training and kits of supplies for TBAs in the mountainous areas of Burma along the border.

HISTORY: The idea began when Mikel met Ben Brown who is a doctor from Sebastopol. Ben spent more than fifteen years traveling to Thailand to provide a way for Burmese refugees in Thailand to learn enough medicine to help their friends and neighbors on both side of the Burmese border. The TBA Project is one part of the program. The TBA Project began in 2000 and there have been over 400 TBAs trained and yet not all people have been reached. The Rotary Club of Sebastopol Sunrise first donated funds for this project in June 2004. Then in November 2004, Mikel received a planning grant from Rotary International and went to Mae Sot. He met with the Rotary Club of Muang Chod in Mae Sot. They joined in applying for a matching grant for $24,000 to buy all the supplies needed for the TBA Project for a year. The matching grant was approved in April 2005.
PROJECT PARTICIPANTS: The Rotary Club of Sebastopol- Sunrise is seeking Rotary Clubs to become partners in promoting safe births among displaced Burmese people and everywhere. Cooperating organizations include Planet Care and Global Health Access Program (GHAP).

FUNDING: In Dec 2003, donations of $400 were donated by friends and family of Mikel Cook to get the support started. In June 2004 the board of the Rotary Club of Sebastopol Sunrise voted $2,300 to support training and equipment for a “backpack medic” team to train and equip TBAs for a year. This donation triggered matching funds from an anonymous donor.

Rotary International Foundation approved a planning grant on 13 Sep 2004. The planning grant was followed by a matching grant in 2005-2006 that supplied over 400 TBAs who were able to attend over 4,000 births made safer by having supplies like sterile gloves and simple medicine to help in case of excessive bleeding during a problem birth.

THE FUTURE: The Rotary Club of Sebastopol Sunrise is inviting other Rotary clubs to join in supporting the TBA Project. We have begun an outreach project to share information about the project other Rotary Clubs in the Sonoma County area. It is our intent to expand the TBA Project.