Run for Refugees

Jentry and Nichole Miskin made this PSA on the Run for Refugees.   I feel they did such a beautiful job capturing an upbeat tone without undermining the seriousness of the issue.  And I am blown away by how beautifully they captured the radiance of our friends from Burma.   Everyone please watch and share with your friends.

Youtube link

Funding cuts for Myanmar Refugees

News article from the National discusses how funding cuts are affecting the Mae Tao clinic in Mae Sot as well as in refugee camps.  Just because the junta has made some steps toward democratic reform does not mean there are any services being provided to the millions of people who have been displaced due to military violence.    Let’s be clear.  There are still reports of the junta hunting and killing ethnic minorities in Burma.  It is not safe for refugees to go home.  And they need our help more than ever.

What do democratic reforms mean for the ethnic minorities of Burma?

In 2012, Burma Humanitarian Mission is supporting 20 of the 82 backpack medics teams and clinics operating in the conflict zones of eastern Burma. The regime has dangled a ceasefire with one of the 7 ethnic groups, the Karen, but meanwhile, in Kachin State, the regime has unilaterally broken a 17 year ceasefire and routinely launches violent attacks on villages several times each week.

For the past two decades, the regime has inflicted a ‘Four Cuts’ policy on the ethnic minorities – isolating them from basic community services (education, security, and health care). Without basic humanitarian services, the Karen and other minorities suffer from malnutrition, disease and abnormally high mortality rates. One in seven children die before the age of five and the maternal mortality rate is 54 times the rate in the U.S. One in five people suffered from malaria at some point during the first months of 2012.

Backpack medics supported by Burma Humanitarian Mission travel quietly throughout the conflict zones, providing trauma care and community health services to 191,000 individuals, primarily children and women plus their families. The Backpack medics are in the process of adding two additional medic teams to extend their reach into Kachin State, urgently needed due to the increased violence there.

While there are some select ‘fixed clinics’, most teams operate in a mobile manner, visiting 9-12 villages each month. The teams enter a village, assess the peoples’ needs, note changes from their previous visit, coordinate with village health volunteers and treat individuals are required.

Teams are comprised of three to five trained medics and support a population of roughly 2,000 people. Where the teams operate, child, malaria and dysentery mortality rates have been cut in half while the maternal mortality rate has been reduced by two-thirds. Sixty percent of all children’s deaths could be prevented with access to basic medicine.

So, given this background, what happens if a ‘ceasefire’ is signed? The first question is whether the regime will honor the ceasefire? The regime’s track record is not to support such a potential or promise.

There is a dynamic split in interests. Those living in the urban areas are keenly interested in individual freedoms that they richly deserve. The efforts toward democratic reform reflect the core respect for them that they are due.

At the same time, the lives of the peoples in the east and north of Burma endure horrific suffering at the hands of the Burma army. They have individual freedoms, but lack the independence for their people they deserve. Isolated by the regime’s Four Cuts policy, they suffer horrendous mortality rates – 1 in 14 infants die before their 1st birthday and 1 in 7 children die before their 5th birthday.

How are these competing interests reconciled? Can they be? This is not an easy question.

If a ceasefire is enduring…those with experience in the region recognize that it will be years before the backpack medics are no longer needed to provide their mobile services. Five or 10 years from now, they will transition to providing fixed clinics offering a steady level of care. Security issues are at the core of their ability to do this.

But the backpack medics leadership is clear: the regime will not provide any health care or community health services to the minorities in the east. The Karen and others must rely on their own skills and support.

What do you think? What relationships do you see between democratic reforms in Rangoon and the independence for the peoples in the conflict zones?

Zoya Phan’s commentary on elections in Burma

Everyone needs to read this!

“I have been told I should be glad about the changes and new freedoms in my country. I am glad for the changes that have taken place, but we have to be realistic, my country isn’t free, not even close to being free. I don’t want to be told by foreign governments that just because I am from Burma 20 percent freedom is better than what we had before, so it is good enough for me. I don’t want to be told that 20 percent freedom justifies lifting sanctions. I have a right to 100 percent freedom.” – Zoya Phan’t-mean-Burma-is-free.pdf