Assistive Device Helps Burma Mother Take Son to School for First Time

2 December 2022

By Myat Noe Oo for ReLAB-HS

Ma Nan Aye Nandar, a mother of a four-year-old son, living in Taung Kyar Inn village in Kawkareik township has been suffering from poliomyelitis since she was four and has had to use assistive devices to move around from a young age.

“For me, I am fine with using a wheelchair for daily life,” she said. Though a wheelchair improves her mobility for most daily activity, she is limited if she has to travel long distances on rough roads. “My son is attending kindergarten in another village, and it is a problem for me because I am a wheelchair user.”

She lives in the township in Burma where Learning, Acting, and Building for Rehabilitation in Health Systems (ReLAB-HS) is working to strengthen rehabilitation in local health systems, including making assistive technology devices more accessible and affordable.

Woman riding a tricycle with boy standing next to her

Ma Nan Aye Nandar rides the motorized tricycle that allows her to take her son to school. As a wheelchair user, she could not travel long distances on rough roads to take her son to school the next township over from where the live. Photo by Ma Thet Hnin Wai

Ma Aye Nandar uses a wheelchair while she manages her and her son’s daily activities but dropping him off and picking him up from school proved challenging until she received a motorized tricycle from Humanity & Inclusion, the lead implementing partner of ReLAB-HS in Burma.

“My dream was fulfilled because of the tricycle. “I always dreamed of playing with my son [and dropping him off and picking him up] from school myself. Now I can drop off and pick up my son from kindergarten like the other parents. I can drive to the place that my son wants to visit and play,” she said.

Ma Aye Nandar’s husband went abroad to work after the conflict started in Burma and she had to stop working as a teacher. This conflict also has made it difficult to access assistive technology devices and services in Kawkareik township. Previously, there were many services available in her village, but now only a few organizations are engaged in strengthening the health system.

“Because of Humanity & Inclusion, I used a new wheelchair and tricycle, a new design for me. In the past I used other people’s second-hand wheelchairs,” she said.

Now, she has difficulty finding rehabilitation services at the primary health care level, and she often has to seek available services on her own. There are only a few support organizations because of the country’s situation, and she continues to face travel limitations in getting to facilities that provide rehabilitation devices and services. These are among the many challenges that ReLAB-HS will work to overcome through building capacity of health workers and strengthening referral networks.

Ma Aye Nandar’s story captures the experience of many rehabilitation and assistive technology users. Drawing from her experiences and others, ReLAB-HS, in coordination with humanitarian stakeholders, will generate learnings about these very specific needs, to inform efforts to integrate rehabilitation and assistive technology into the informal health system.

ReLAB-HS is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development.