Friday, August 10, 2007

A Couple of Amazing Projects

Sandy and I spent two days on buses traveling to Mae Sot, a town on the Burmese Thai border, to visit a pair of projects that may be able to use the donated medical supplies.

The Mae Tao Clinic is a remarkable clinic that has grown from a 3 month project to a massive organization with 240 staff members. Some amazing things they do for Burmese people are:

  • provide health care services to 800,000 people a year.
  • charge just short of $1 for the first visit and all others are free

  • have a school that teaches 500 children

  • serve 1,100 meals a day

  • provide limbs for land mine victims (like this girl who lost 2 legs)

  • treat malaria patients (which comprise the largest group of fatalities)

  • provide health education programs

  • provide ob-gyn services

  • provide glasses and do eye surgery

  • lots more!

You may wonder why this is necessary. The border region in this area has long been a hotspot and the Burmese government would like to eliminate all the people in the area (thus eliminating the unrest). They also spend a huge portion of their income on its armed forces (this in a country that has no external enemies) so there is little left for anything else. Thus, people get sick, there is nowhere to go so they wait until they realize the patient may not survive and then they make the often long journey through the jungle (thus getting weaker). This is why so many of the malaria patients die.

When they talked to us about trying to handicap the likelihood of survival of their patients so they could decide who they should use their limited supplies. It was easy to understand and hard to believe at the same time.

The second organization is the Back Pack Health Worker Team. They have about 250 people that live in villages in Burma and provide health care to people who have no other choices. They do everything from simple treatments to amputations all in the jungle! In addition, the teams provide all types of health education to the villages in their region. The BPHWT provides the supplies and training every six months.

You may wonder about hospitals, but the government does not provide them, but in some areas there are clinics run by various ethnic groups that are trying to provide support that the government will not.

A couple of sad statistics regarding children in this part of Burma...15% die before they reach their 1st birthday and a third will die by their 5th. Hard to believe. The average family must flee the Burmese army 3 times a year, so it is impossible to build any real infrastructure.

The most frustrating part to me is that the organizations say that they can get donated medical supplies, but the Thai government does not want outside aid for these groups...they want them to buy the supplies in Thailand so their economy can grow. I can understand the sentiment except for the fact that people are dying because there are not enough medical supplies.


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