29 June 19 - Source: Mizzima - WaterAid with the support of Ministry of Health and Sports hosted a launch event on Friday, 28 June at the MGallery Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw, according to a press release.

This was the official launch of the Supporting Safer Births in Myanmar project, Water for Women.

The project is led by WaterAid in partnership with Jhpiego and The Soapbox Collaborative. The project is funded by the Australian Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and will strengthen health systems by improving the quality of maternal healthcare by combining improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) as well as Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) practices at the facility level to ensure that women in Myanmar will have safer, more dignified births.

WaterAid Myanmar is working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS) at the national and regional level. The Project Steering Committee with MoHS is constituted to provide strategic direction and guidance for the interventions in the project. A Quality Improvement (QI) tool on WASH and IPC was developed in consultation with the project steering committee as well as its project partners to identify the areas of intervention and prepare an action plan to improve WASH standards in healthcare facilities.

Speaking on this occasion, the Deputy Director General for the Ministry of Health and Sports, Dr. Than Lwin Htun acclaimed Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and WaterAid's collaborative efforts for bringing quality improvements in healthcare system of Myanmar. He stressed that WASH in healthcare facilities are fundamental for providing good quality care, adding that implementation of strong advocacy and support for WASH in health facilities are some of the main components of the National Strategy targets that have been set by the Ministry. He concluded by stating that this project will not only support safer births and infection prevention and control, but also provide gender and socially inclusive WASH services in select township hospitals in Ayeyarwady.

Emphasising the need of better healthcare facilities in hospitals of rural areas, the Head of DFAT and Counsellor of Australian Embassy in Myanmar Mr. Tim Vistarani appreciated government of Myanmar's commitment towards improved health services and meeting the SDG targets. He attested that Water for Women has become one of the Australian Government's flagship projects as it appreciates the critical roles gender and WASH can achieve to improve lives in many communities. The Head of DFAT accredited WASH as a lifesaving contribution to policy and infrastructure – a model for which the sum is greater than its two parts.

The Country Director of WaterAid Myanmar Shihab Uddin Ahamad reiterated WaterAid's commitment to support Myanmar government in achieving the strategic goals set within the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan 2018-2030, particularly the targets set for achieving improved WASH services in healthcare facilities, schools and communities. He elaborated the project mandate that the project is being piloted in 5 township hospitals (Myan Aung, Kyan Kin, Pantanaw, Lemyathna, Zalun) in Ayeyarwady, as the region currently has a higher-than-average neonatal mortality rate of 36 deaths per 1,000 live births, with only 34% of deliveries occurring in a healthcare facility. Since adequate WASH and IPC are essential components to provide basic health care services, a lack in the quality of these services prevents women and other vulnerable groups from receiving quality care.

The project interventions were presented by Dr. Khaing Khaing Soe, Deputy Director, Occupational and Environmental Health Division. She apprised that by aligning the project's aims with the Myanmar Government's National Health Plan (2017-2021) and the National Strategy for Rural WASH (2016-2030), Water for Women initiative will support the provision of a basic package of essential health services to everyone by 2020. Keeping gender equality and social inclusivity (GESI) in view, Water for Women aims to see health facilities in Myanmar get set up with adequate water supplies, toilets and handwashing facilities.

This holistic approach towards establishing adequate WASH and IPC components will improve the quality of healthcare, prevent infections, control the spread of diseases, improve disease prevention and response, and protect the health and wellbeing of patients, their families as well as healthcare workers and surrounding communities.

WaterAid is an international organisation whose mission is to transform the lives of the poorest and most marginalized people by improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. It is committed to working towards ensuring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene as a basic right for everyone, everywhere. WaterAid was established in 1980 in UK. It is now a global federation working across 34 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and Americas.

WaterAid Myanmar was established in January 2016. With its innovative programmes, WaterAid Myanmar aimed towards delivery of universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene in most marginalised communities. WAMM works with a facilitative work approach and through a range of diverse partners across the country. WaterAid works with the government for improving the access and quality of WASH services through effective monitoring system leading to proper planning and budgeting. It endeavours to strengthen community empowerment approaches where the citizens, particularly the most marginalised, engage with the relevant government departments and secure their WASH rights.