Supporting safer births in Myanmar 

Water for Women partners with WaterAid in supporting safer births in Ayeyarwady Region, Myanmar so that women have safer births as a result of improved WASH and Infection Prevention and Control, which supports quality maternal and newborn care.


Myanmar’s national neonatal mortality rate of 25 per 1000 live births is one of the highest rates among Southeast Asian countries.  The rates are even higher for births in rural areas, mothers with little or no education, and babies born to families in the lowest wealth quintile.  The maternal mortality ratio is 200 per 100,000 live births. 

Most of these deaths are from preventable causes, such as postpartum infections or complications that can be addressed with simple interventions. Some of the barriers faced when looking to improve these statistics are: 

Only about one third of births (37%) occur in a health facilitywhere life-saving emergency obstetric and newborn care services are available.

In the lowest wealth quintile, only 16.8% of live births took place in a hospital compared to 82.5% among the wealthiest quintile. 

Access to quality health care is more difficult for the 70% of Myanmar’s population that lives in rural areas. 

Adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and related infection prevention and control are essential components of providing basic health services, including for maternal, newborn and child health. The provision of WASH in health care facilities serves to:

  • prevent infections, control the spread of disease and combat Antimicrobial Resistance;
  • protect the health and wellbeing of patients and their families, health workers and surrounding communities;
  • improve prevention, preparedness and response to outbreaks and emergencies;
  • and uphold the dignity of vulnerable populations including pregnant women, newborns and children and people with a disability. 

Water for Women aims to support women and the most marginalised people within communities to ensure safe and sustainable WASH access for all people within communities.


Water for Women will be partnering with WaterAid to deliver Supporting safe births in Myanmar – strengthening health systems to improve the quality of maternal and newborn healthcare.

The proposed location for the project, Ayeyarwady Region, has a neonatal mortality rate of 36 per 1,000 live births (much higher than the national average), with 34% of births occurring in a health facility.

Regional map of Myanmar

The Project aims to ensure that women delivering in Myanmar have safer births as a result of improved WASH and Infection Prevention and Control, which supports quality maternal and newborn care.

Clean and safe healthcare facilities can increase demand for, and trust in, services, reinforce the role of healthcare services and staff in setting hygiene norms, increase the motivation, satisfaction and retention of health care workers, and result in cost savings from infections averted and more efficient service delivery.


The main project goal is to improve the quality and safety of health care at the time of birth.

The project will support improvements in WASH in hospitals required for a safe, compassionate and dignified birth environment, including hygiene behaviours and practices, and gender and socially inclusive (GESI) WASH facilities.

To do this the project will focus on four key outcomes:

Outcome 1: Support for strengthening health systems

Ministry of Health and Sports systems, monitoring, standards and quality mechanisms prioritise gender sensitive and inclusive WASH and infection prevention and control

Outcome 2: Gender Quality and Social Inclusion

Inclusive and gender sensitive sustainable WASH facilities and services provided in selected hospitals.

Outcome 3: Sustainable Approaches

Selected hospitals have strengthened approaches to gender equality and social inclusion.

Outcome 4: Evidence and Learning

Evidence and learning generated from the project positively influences the design and implementation of other national and global programs.

"As Myanmar drives progress to improve the quality of their health care services and encourage women to deliver in health care facilities, the DFAT funded ‘Supporting safe births’ program is critically important and timely. The project brings together WASH and health actors to join expertise and work collaboratively with the Ministry of Health and Sports to ensure basic water, sanitation, hygiene and infection prevention and control needs are at the forefront of Myanmar’s quality of care efforts and that this process is gender and socially inclusive.

The project will trial a quality improvement approach for improving WASH and quality together in a way that can be taken to scale across Myanmar and also become a model that other countries across the world can adapt to ensure services are safe and dignified for women, particularly during the vulnerable time of childbirth."

- Alison Macintyre, Technical Lead - Health, WaterAid Australia 

The Australian Aid program is investing in the Ayeyarwady Region of Myanmar over a five-year period to achieve these outcomes. Water for Women is proud to be partnering with WaterAid and other partners, Jhpiego, and The SoapBox Collaborative in delivering supporting safer births in Myanmar.

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Photo: WaterAid/Htoo Tay Zar

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