BURMA: Abuses Cause Health Crisis for Children in East: Report

Wednesday, October 20, 2010
South Eastern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Human rights abuses were causing a health crisis for women and children in eastern Burma, a recent report from an alliance of ethnic minority and health organisations said.

“Diagnosis: Critical Health and Human Rights in Eastern Burma” was released on Tuesday by the National Health and Education Committee (Burma), the Burma Medical Association, Back Pack Health Worker Team and other organisations, at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand in Bangkok.

It was based on a survey of 27,000 respondents in Karen, Karenni, Mon, and Shan states, and Pegu and Tenasserim divisions. It found that 40 per cent of children suffered from malnutrition and 60 per cent died from preventable diseases.

“Children of displaced families were three times more likely to suffer from malnutrition and the death rate of children doubled in families forced to provide labour to the junta. It shows the health-care system in those areas were not effective and human rights abuses directly related with the health crisis”, Dr. Cynthia Maung, key speaker at the event and founder of the Mae Tao clinic based in Mae Sot, Thailand, on the Burmese border, told Mizzima.

She is also a Ramon Magsaysay Award recipient for her work with refugees and migrants from Burma seeking health care.

Pregnant women in the areas covered lacked all manner of effective health services, the report said.

The report summarises the results of a large-scale health survey that covered 21 townships and 5,754 families in the conflict zones of eastern Burma and a press conference about the report was held also in Mae Sot yesterday.

Townships in which the survey was conducted included Kyaukkyi and Shwegyin in Pegu Division; Demosoe and Loikaw in Karenni State; Maisal and Pruhso in Karenni State; Hlaingbwe, Kawkareik, Kyainseikgyi, Myawaddy, Papun and Thandaung in Karen State; Kyaikmaraw and Yay in Mon State; Pekon, Mong Tong, Mong Pan, Mong Hsat and Nanhkan in Shan State, and Yebyu in Tenassirim Division.

Many children in those areas suffered malaria, malnutrition and diarrhoea, with malaria causing the most deaths, the report said.

The UNDP Human Development Report for last year said the junta had spent just 1.8 per cent of its total budget on health, ranking Burma down at 138 out of 182 countries based on proportion of expenditure set aside for health care.

In rural areas of Karenni State, people suffered diarrhoea, skin diseases, malaria, malnutrition and goitre (large swelling of the thyroid gland usually caused by a lack of iodine in the diet), and had to depend on small clinics that were desperate for medical workers and medicines, Karenni National Progressive Party first joint secretary Khu Oo Reh told Mizzima.

In Karenni State, people were also enduring forced labour and other rights abuses.

Back Pack Health Worker Team director Mahn Mahn said that people who live in the ethnic Karenni areas controlled by the junta had endured forced labour and in some areas, especially in Karen State, people had suffered forced migration.

The junta's electoral watchdog, the Union Election Commission (UEC), declared on September 16 that it would be unable to hold polling in some townships dominated by large ethnic minorities. The research of health organisations was based on those townships, Mahn Mahn said.

According to the UEC statement, polling was cancelled in some townships of Kachin, Karenni, Karen, Mon and Shan states.