Burma Humanitarian Mission

LOCATION: Burma (Myanmar)

SUMMARY: BHM supports community-based backpack medics who administer village health care services in Burma, grassroots education projects that empower the youth of Burma and projects that promote cross-cultural sharing and collaboration for refugees from Burma living in the U.S.

PROBLEM SPACE: Burma has one the world’s worst health care systems, with some of the highest rates of malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS, dysentery, diarrhea and other communicable illnesses in the world. In the ethnic conflict areas of Burma, the government provides no healthcare. 15% of children die before their 5th birthday, mostly from illnesses that are easily preventable. Malaria accounts for nearly half of all deaths. 1 in 12 expecting mothers will not survive pregnancy.

Despite the election of Aung San Suu Ky’s National League for Democracy to hold the majority of seats in parlimant, the Myanmar Army continues its assaults on the ethnic minorities. The Army attacks villages, killing citizens, burning crops and seizing land for international development. Rape is used as a weapon of war to intimidate communities. 650,000 people are internally displaced and at least twice as many are isolated without infrastructure. Others have fled the country, living in refugee camps or as undocumented workers.

SOLUTION: This project is ingeniously navigating a hostile regime and a difficult physical environment to provide grassroots, culturally integrated health care – and thus elegantly meeting critical needs. Trained in basic neo-natal care and childbirth, plus equipped with medicine, Backpack Medics travel among their people providing pre-natal, delivery, and post-delivery care. The ethnic medics speak their people providing pre-natal, delivery, and post-delivery care.

Our efforts start with supporting BPHWT to recruit and train the next generation of backpack medics. These dedicated men and women learn the basics of first aid, medicines, maternal and child care and community health practices during a 7 month training program in a safe area of Karen State.

The teams draw volunteers from all the ethnic groups in Burma to include the Karen, Karenni, Kachin, Palaung, Shan and Mon people. The priority goes to assisting those communities immediately affected by the Burma army’s violence or aggression.

Once trained, the new medics return to their villages and communities. Some serve for a few years while others serve for decades. No matter how long they serve, BHM supports them with their required medicines and supplies.

Backpack medics are instrumental as catalysts of change for their people. The isolated villages and IDP camps lack the amenities of contemporary society – electricity, running water, paved roads and fixed structures.

The medics provide a very proactive community health education program. Their efforts focus on disease prevention for the most prevalent conditions: malaria, dysentery, pneumonia and problem pregnancies. They also promote sanitary conditions with securing clean water and building and instructing on how to build latrines. The medics also share information on malnutrition, waste disposal, Vitamin A, de-worming medicine, and high-risk pregnancies.

CONTACT: [email protected]