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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Cynthia Maung

Interviewed January 8, 2010

When I left from Burma, we had to hide in the jungle on the way because we [were] afraid that the military would know that we would be on the way and come to the border. And so, many people just hiding and coming slowly to the border. So it takes seven days because there is no vehicle or transport system. Just nighttime we travel and daytime we are hiding. But we realized that the situation in the ethnic area is worse than inside Burma because there are no healthcare services. So when they learn about I’m a doctor, so they come and approach our team. So whatever we have we start treating patient.

And then seven days later we arrived to the border. At that time, almost 10,000 people from inside Burma come out from Burma and then start setting up, like, a temporary shelter and camp along the border area. But there has been no system in place for healthcare and food relief, and people desperately need for the relief, what we started to do, relief work. So since that time, with support from local Thai community leaders and the Karen leaders, we start setting up relief and humanitarian assistance for these people, including a food program and also, like, medical services. But at that time, we only have very few health workers come out from Burma: some medical doctors, medical student. So there is a lot of demand, because people are sick with malaria and malnutrition and people have many skin infections because of the poor shelter, suffering from pneumonia. So we have been quite busy with all the medical work, and then we start to do training for community health volunteer. So almost three months we’ve been busy with all the relief work and not stable.

But three months later it’s become a little bit stable. But the same time, we start to realize that not only the new arrival; there are many villages around and many people who displace into Thailand. They need healthcare services. So since that time, we decided to start a medical services. And not only the relief program, to start set up medical center, or health center, for these displaced population.

So initially our clients, our patients, are people who fled to the border during 1988. And two years later, our service expanded to Karen State and to the community around Mae Sot area. They learned about the health services available at the clinic. So at that time we only have medical program, just basic medical services. Gradually we identify that there are many unaccompanied woman, children who we need to provide service for maternal-child health.

And also Mae Sot Hospital and the local public health, they learn about our services even [though] we are not registered. We could not be registered or we were not under the public health system. They realize the benefit of the services we provide. So today our medical services provide about 100,000 cases a year. And we provide antenatal care and delivery service for about 4,000 women. And we also treat malaria every year. We have 6,000 to 8,000 malaria cases treated at the clinic. And at the same time we train more and more health workers.

Usually people living in remote village or IDP, internal displaced community, they never receive health care services or education from the government. So the international NGOs are also not allowed to access this population. So this population, also they become our partner because they also want to set up their health care service in their own village. So we start helping them to train and to be health workers and then, after training, they go back and work inside Burma.

So today we have more than 80 teams and access to 152,000 to 180,000 population in internally displaced community. And some area there is a little bit more stable because no active fighting around that area, like ceasefire zone. Or some community is much more stable community. So in this area, we [are] able to support that ethnic health organization, to upgrade their existing facility, like laboratory or obstetric emergency service. So through cross border healthcare service or cross border collaboration we [are] able to access altogether about 400,000 to 500,000 population in Karen, Mon, Karenni, Shan, Chin ethnic groups.