Baby Kits for the Karen State (2013)
2013-09-20 ~ 2014-09-20
Agency: Karen Women’s Organisation
This project will provide 2,000 baby kits to women and newborn babies in the Karen State of Burma. The kits contain baby and laundry soap, sarongs, nappies, and a health message for maternal health education, all of which goes a long way for such a small price. Based on recent birth rates in the Karen State, this project should provide every mother of a child born in the Karen State this year with a baby kit.
Through the Baby Kits Project, the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) will distribute a health package to every mother who gives birth in one of the 7 districts of the Karen State or in the IDP (internally displaced persons) camp located in Ee Htu Hta. The kits each cost roughly $10.00 or 1000 Japanese yen. The kits will be distributed by Karen women from the KWO.
The Karen people are one of Burma’s largest ethnic minority populations and live primarily in the Karen State in southeast Burma. In 1949, the Karen National Union began a long struggle against the Burmese government for independence and later self-determination. The longstanding conflict, which has only recently (in 2012) eased due to a ceasefire signed with the Burmese government, resulted in a high number of deaths and of refugees, most of whom are internally displaced or have fled to Western Thailand to escape the fighting.
Refugees International Japan has consistently funded the KWO Baby Kits Project since it was implemented in 2002. KWO set up Baby Kit Project first in refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border and later, in September 2003, inside Burma’s Karen State itself. In recent years the project has provided approximately 6,000 baby kits to women and newborn babies.
The Karen Women Organization was formed in 1949 and is a community-based organization of Karen women providing development and relief in the refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border and working with IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) inside Burma. Since its formation in 1949 KWO has not only focused on social welfare but has tried to encourage an awareness of women’s rights by promoting women’s participation in the community decision-making and political processes.
In January 2012, the Karen National Union signed a ceasefire with the Burmese government, which seeks to end nearly a half-century of fighting in Karen State. Despite the ceasefire, however, many Burmese forces remain in the Karen State and the government continues to reinforce its power. As a result, the threat of hostilities re-emerging remains considerably high and Karen communities continue to live in a very difficult situation.
KWO successfully distributed 5,186 baby kits out of the 5,384 that were purchased (with the remainder to be distributed in the coming months). 162 out of the allocated 200 kits were distributed in the Ee Htu Hta IDP camp. The Baby Kit Health Message was reviewed and improved with a message for fathers also added.
In addition to the kits, 11 monitoring trips to the 8 sites were conducted with KWO staff making a point to meet directly with the mothers to discuss the kits and gather feedback.
“When I received the baby kit it included a health message, I came to know what foods I should avoid feeding my new born baby, and the importance of the first milk that comes out, I need to feed it to my baby. In the past I never knew this, so I never fed my baby the first milk that I produced.” — Ee Htu Hta Baby Kit Recipient