Myanmar health care broken under military rule
ZEE PHYU KWIN, Myanmar (AP) - In her long scarlet sarong, crisp white shirt and nurse's cap pinned neatly in place, Ms Khin Aye Nwe looks as though she belongs in a modern hospital. Instead, the midwife's clean sandals scuff across the dusty cement floor of a dilapidated clinic in Myanmar's Irrawaddy Delta.
She covers a territory spanning 15 villages with 3,000 people, delivering babies, immunizing children and treating everything from malnutrition to malaria in an area where 80 per cent of young children and pregnant women are anaemic.
For half a century, such work was almost completely ignored by the secretive military-run government, which starved virtually every sector of the budget except defence. Now, with the dramatic change that has given Myanmar an elected government, there are hopes for improvement, but the country faces a long climb. Under military rule, it spent less than US$1 (S$1.20) per person on health in 2008, minus donor money, and ranks among the lowest countries in nearly every category of health care funding.
Despite the neglect, Ms Nwe and a small army of other dedicated women have continued to fan out across the country's vast rice basket to help the sick. They walk, ride buses, climb inside rickety boats and hop on the backs of motorbikes to reach patients who have no other source of medical care.