Putting ash into your food may not seem like a particularly nutritious idea, but until the intervention of the Mykids Health Education Program, this is precisely what was occurring in some parts of Myanmar.
In October this year our Mykids collaborative project ventured out to several areas of Myanmar to spread the good word about domestic health and nutrition. Supported by a HELP grant from the Happy Herb Company, the intrepid team at MyKids Australia ran health education seminars in the cities of Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw and their surrounding rural communities in an effort to equip the people with tools to help improve their health outcomes. The focus of these seminars were on the topics of nutrition, sanitation and traditional Burmese herbal treatments complementing the information distributed in the ‘Household Health and First Aid Handbook’.
With some of the lowest government spending on health in the world and one third of its population below the poverty line, many people in Myanmar have little or no access to health care. Furthermore, many Burmese have minimal understanding about the basic components of healthy living, as the Mykids health project manager, Phil Sooveere, points out:
“The fundamental importance of nutrition, sanitation and traditional Burmese herbal treatments, have never been shared with these people. To add to the issue most Burmese have less than a junior high school education.”
They had never heard that it matters what food goes into your body, that food can bring health or disease; instead they eat to keep hunger at bay. They have never heard that adding ash to a meal can contribute to stomach cancer; instead it is used as a flavouring agent in many parts of Myanmar. Through this campaign our Mykids collaborative project has sought to alleviate preventable health problems by communicating the dos and don’ts of nutrition and sanitation.
Designed to educate community leaders in order to pass on this information to the broader public, the seminar attendances consisted of:
- 400 members of the Myanmar community in total
- 100 attendees from orphanage leadership.
- 50 community leaders.
- 60 attendees from universities and colleges.
- Others including childcare workers and teachers.
Subsequently, the seminars had an almost immediate impact.
One such pre-school, upon passing this information to parents , noticed the food provided for the kids ‘changed the very next day and included food stuffs never normally sent, such as higher protein foods, less rice and more vegetables.’ As a result, the carers report improving behaviour, energy levels and attentiveness in the classrooms and the children are also now sleeping better.
Tlung Awm Moses, who attended the seminar, also found the experience valuable:
“It was very helpful as we did not have any knowledge about food and nutrition. And I didn’t understand the purpose of food for our body. The new things I learnt from the training is; ‘how to eat for our body’ and the main food groups such as Protein, Carbohydrates, Fats and Vitamins.”
With such wonderful results, OHO, Mykids and the Happy Herb Company can be re-assured that the virtuous efforts invested in this program will contribute to a happier, healthier people and a more productive, just society for Myanmar!