IPS: Continued conflict in eastern Myanmar poses severe health and human rights violations

An IPS article reports on the human rights violations and health plight of thousands in eastern Myanmar, a region experiencing frequent conflict along the volatile Thai-Myanmar border. The communities in this area are considered “highly vulnerable” and human rights groups have estimated that around 500,000 villagers are internally displaced persons. Jen Leigh, field director of the Global Health Access Program (GHAP) told IPS, “We have documented that the experience of human rights violations is correlated with negative health outcomes.”

The constant threat of violence makes it difficult for health clinics to be established and for the villagers to access health services. As a result, maternal mortality is very high compared to the rest of the country and neighboring Thailand. According to IPS, which cites local international and public health organizations as well as a February GHAP report, eastern Myanmar has maternal mortality rates as high as 1,200 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to a national average of 250 per 100,000 live births and Thailand’s 44 per 100,000 live births. GHAP has deemed this discrepancy  a “public health emergency.”

Further exacerbating the problem is the government’s official policies in the conflict zones, which effectively deny health care to ethnic minorities and bar the involvement of humanitarian organizations. Instead, the large populations of internally displaced persons have turned to clinics interspersed around the area. While many such clinics offer free maternal care to pregnant mothers, they are difficult for the majority to reach.  To counter this, humanitarian teams, such as the Back Pack Health Worker Team have navigated the mine-infested landscape to supply basic maternity kits to the ethnic minority groups.

As of yet, these mobile health services, who also handle other health emergencies, appear to be the only possible health services available to these populations.

Read the full IPS article here.

Photos: By Neil916 at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dr.A.Hugentobler (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons