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Soapboxer Dr Sandra Virgo reports from Myanmar:

At the start of June, I flew to Yangon in Myanmar to help with preparation for a needs assessment of 30 health facilities as part of a project undertaken by WaterAid and funded by UNICEF and WHO, as well as local partners including the Burnet Institute.

It was the rainy season in the bustling city, which was full of tiny fragrant eateries, frantic traffic, new malls, many trees and lots of shrines, including the stunning Shwedagon Pagoda.

Our work took place at the Department of Medical Research over the course of five days. For the first three days WaterAid ran a workshop attended by individuals from the Ministry of Health, funding agencies, local data collectors, and regional stakeholders. To help attendees understand why and how needs assessments can be useful, I gave a presentation on previous needs assessments conducted by Soapbox in other countries We then split the local data collectors into different groups and trained them on different skills: water quality testing; microbiological swabbing; interviewing staff and patients; and completing water, sanitation and hygiene checklists. The researchers were extremely engaged in the training throughout, and many of them had clinical experience and therefore hands-on familiarity with the healthcare environment which aided their understanding.

After the training, the researchers then went off for a day and a half to practice collecting data and to see how the research tools worked in some ‘pilot’ facilities. .

Finally, on the Friday afternoon, everyone came together again at the Department of Medical Research so that the researchers could let us know of any difficulties they had faced or any ways in which the research tools could be changed to make them easier to use. It was a very fruitful feedback session, and the WaterAid team and I made many notes of ways to make the researchers’ jobs easier and the data even more accurate.

Since my return, we have been collaborating online to make those final tweaks, and the real needs assessment is set to start this Monday. We look forward to finding out the results!

Local researchers learning to test water quality as part of the needs assessment.

Top image: Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon