Category Archives: Medical
The first week of February saw further attacks on civilians in Karen State, Eastern Burma by the country’s ruling dictators. While over 2,000 men, women and children lost their homes, a local health clinic was burned to the ground and 11 schools abandoned due to force.
In order to destabilize communities and weaken support for local freedom fighters, the army often forcibly relocates villages, sending in mortars then heading in on foot to destroy what is left and kill any remaining villagers.
Between February 3-7, at least 46 houses and one clinic were burned to the ground in Toe Hta, while 38 homes were destroyed in Ka Di Mu Der, two areas of Kler Lwe Htoo (Nyaunglebin) District in northern Karen State. These attacks were perpetrated by Light Infantry Batallion (LIB) #362 and LIB #356 of the Burma Army.
Speaking to WIN in the days after, Saw Steve of the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People (CIDKP) said that “the 2,000 people have fled deep into the jungle where they remain as the Burma Army are still active in the area. They are not close to any source of water and are sleeping in the wild.”
WIN recently received other reports that three Burma Army battalions have been moved into the region and are in combat with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). It is unlikely that the region will be safe for return within the week. A spokesperson for the Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW), which administers the destroyed clinic, spoke to WIN of his deep concern for the displaced people’s lack of food and other materials.
“Firstly they need food, that is the number one thing and we encourage any support anyone can offer us or CIDKP in this regard. After that they need medicine, materials for shelter and then once they return they will need to start from scratch collecting utensils and pots and pans and other household things.”
The KDHW operate a mobile clinic service, which is adaptable to the constant need to flee settlements and start over.
“The mobile clinic concept means that if the villagers are forced to move location because of attack, our health workers will always move with them. In the same way, if upon return they decide that it is not safe to stay – usually due to landmine cultivation – the health workers move with them to the new site.”
These reports came shortly after a local trader was murdered on the Salween River that borders Thailand and Burma. Saw Law Ray Htoo was shot by Burma Army soldiers while traveling downstream by boat on February 5.
WIN has also received reports that the 2,000 or more IDPs displaced in similar attacks between January 17 and 19, remain in hiding in the jungle, many also in Kler Lwe Hto District.
Kim, on the border
Worldwide Impact Now
In a small corner of a border refugee camp sits the Karen Handicap Welfare Association’s (KHWA) “Care Villa”. The on-going war in Eastern Burma produces many casualties, and currently 19 ethnic Karen receive care here, healing the injuries resulting from landmines placed by the Burmese Army in their ethnic minority villages and farmlands. We see innocent villagers, unfairly punished for trying to feed their families. Former soldiers wounded while fighting for their freedom against an oppressive military junta still in power. And even a small boy of 15, blinded while collecting wood for a fire.
Che Lee (34), a rice farmer, lost his sight and both hands to a landmine in 1997. He lives a simple life that starts early in the morning with prayer. It is his brothers and sisters at the center who make it possible for him to carry out his day. From washing himself and changing his clothes to eating a meal, Che Lee relies on the care given by the center’s assistants and by those, who like him, have had their lives shattered by landmine injuries.
Che Lee spends his days listening to music, singing in the Care Villa choir, and visiting friends throughout the camp with the help of the children leading the way. While Che Lee speaks of his sadness for losing his sight, he finds strength through the members of the center who bring him joy.
“We live together and we eat together, like a family – we are a family. For 5 years I lived at my friends’ house and life was very lonely, but since I have moved to the Care Villa, my family has grown and we all work together.”
WIN Program Coordinator Matt, on the border
Karen farmers return to farm lands where the Burmese Army has placed landmines. Mobile medical clinics and backpack medics are the only care these farmers have in the war zone.
In Eastern Burma, decades of civil war, wide spread human rights abuses and increasing numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) continue to exacerbate the human dilemma for primitive ethnic minorities. With the situation shows no sign of change, there is a dire need to provide health care to those who are the most vulnerable. This effort will hopefully increase the chances of survival of these people and their rich tribal cultures that have evolved over two millennial.
While the overall health system in Burma is poor beyond imagination, it is ethnic minority farmers and IDPs in Eastern Burma who suffer the most. Public health indicators across Eastern Burma resemble those of countries who are facing widespread humanitarian disasters, such as Sierra Leone, Niger and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Malaria is still the most common cause of death with 12% of the population being infected at any given time.
Due to the non-existence of government health programs and the government’s strategy to drive these ethnics off ancestral lands, these people can only receive health care that is provided by community based organizations (CBOs) and non government organizations (NGOs) willing to venture into the war zone.
Worldwide Impact Now has been working with ethnic Karen CBOs for the past 5 years, supporting them in their efforts to provide medical care to villagers and IDPs across Karen State. This is in the form of communications equipment, digital cameras, office equipment, transportation, stipends for youth health workers, as well as training on human rights reporting. The Karen’s health services are the most critical factor in these ethnic minority’s people struggle for survival in the face of an overwhelming Burmese Army of over 400,000 soldiers attacking villagers for decades. It is a “last stand” situation for these people now as Burmese armed force steadily isolate and strangled remaining hide sites.
Tim Heinemann, Founder
Worldwide Impact Now
Although the above is the roof of our youth leader training center in a remote region of Karen State, it’s still a perfect example of the simple structures the Burmese Army routinely destroys. Here youth are trained to help their people survive against the Burmese Army attempting to drive them off ancestral lands.
We would like to thank all of you who supported the recent initiative to establish a center for teaching agricultural and community development skills to ethnic farmers. We just learned after several weeks of attack by the Burmese Army that the center below was destroyed before construction was completed. This was a result of the on-going army offensive to drive ethnic peoples out of this region in Eastern Burma. Refer to Karen Human Rights Group and Free Burma Rangers for further details about this on-going offensive.
We intend to pursue this initiative elsewhere in hopes of being able to help farmers improve crop yields and support community development.
Thank you for support of these villagers as they attempt to survive in the face of tough odds.
Tim Heinemann, Founder
Worldwide Impact Now (WIN)