The floorboards creak as you enter Daw Thin Thin's house. Above, a corrugated iron sheet covers the planks that serve as walls. A gentle breeze flutters the cloth hanging from the windows. This family of ten lives in Hlaing Tha Yar, a township west of Yangon in Myanmar.
Twins Myo Thet Paing and Myo Pa Pa, aged 2, watch the bustle with curious eyes. The thanakha that covers their faces creates small white circles on their cheeks and foreheads. “Myo Thet Paing and Myo Pa Pa were born premature,” says Daw Thin Thin, their mother. “They got sick very often, but we couldn't afford to pay for the medicine.” During the first visit of Terre des hommes’ team, they were diagnosed as severely malnourished.
The father is a street vendor. Political instability and inflation weigh on the family's already low income. This crisis situation is getting worse and threatens an entire segment of the Myanmar population. “In the poor areas, people can no longer afford to buy nutritious food. Most people can only afford rice. And even then, some don't even have enough money for rice”, says Thant Sin Aye, a mobile medical doctor with Tdh in Myanmar. “The number of children suffering from disease and malnutrition is soaring. The health system is not functioning properly, so these children are not getting the care they need.”
Tdh teams of doctors, nurses and midwives regularly travel to the poorest communities to provide medical care. “We organise what is called a mobile clinic. We bring all the necessary equipment and medicines and set up for several hours in a house in the neighbourhood. The families come to meet us and we can treat illnesses that do not require hospitalisation.” This presence saves lives in these informal settlements where people often don’t have access to clean water.
Sitting cross-legged opposite Myo Thet Paing, Thant Sin Aye scribbles a few notes in his notebook about the twins' health. The news are good. “After their diagnosis, Myo Pa Pa and Myo Thet Paing were treated for malnutrition. We also gave the family nutritional advice and financial support,” he says.
"We don't have to worry so much about their health anymore," smiles Daw Thin Thin, the mother. "Now I talk about the work of Terre des hommes around me, to my neighbours and to the community!” An essential word-of-mouth that will allow even more children to be treated.
Photo credits: © Tdh