A conduit for change

As conditions in Burma remain desperate for the people living in eastern and northern Burma, Burma Humanitarian Mission has expanded its support to Backpack Medics – the primary source of medical care and community health services in these areas.

For the past 6 decades, the Burma regime has conducted a campaign of oppression and suppression of the ethnic minorities. The minorities – the Karen in the east, the Kachin in the north, Mon in the south – sought to live free and maintain their language, culture and religion. The regime, however, sought to preserve the state of Burma without any changes. The sustained campaign of violence was aimed to prevent the minorities from maintaining their identity.

As a result of the oppression, conditions in eastern Burma have been horrific. In places where there are no Backpack medics:

• 1 in 14 infants die before their first birthday

• 1 in 7 children die before their 5th birthday – 10 times the rate in Thailand

• The maternal mortality rate is 15 times the rate in Thailand

• 1 in 10 suffer from diarrhea and dysentery

• 1 in 5 suffer from malaria

• 1 in 5 from Acute Respiratory Infection (pneumonia)

• 2 in 5 children suffer from acute malnutrition

• 60% of all children’s deaths could have been prevented with basic meds

To counter these trends, the Karen and others formed backpack medic teams to care for their own people. In 1998, 120 medics comprised 32 teams and treated 64,000 people. In 2012, these grew to 95 teams caring for over 200,000 people.

Where the teams operate, deaths from malaria are down by 48%, from dysentery are down by 51%, and infant mortality has been reduced over 3 fold.

In 2012, Burma Humanitarian Mission supported these 8 of the 95 teams with 1 million doses of medicine for more than 23,000 people. During this time, BHM’s supported medics

• Supported 680 births

• Treated 536 patients with dysentery/diarrhea

• Treated 1,119 malaria patients

• Treated over 1,317 patients with acute pneumonia

• Treated 504 patients with severe anemia

• Treated over 500 patients with the measles

• Treated 4 gunshot victims – saving 4 lives

• Treated 2 landmine victims – saving 2 lives

As we moved into 2013, our support has grown. We’ve added support for 2 additional medic teams, growing the population we support to over 28,000 people with 1.2 million doses of medicine. This support will include over 15,000 doses of anti-malarial treatments – vital to saving lives.

We are often asked who are big donors are. The answer is simple: everyone. Over 85% of all donations come from individuals contributing $10 or more. Where $1 provides 40 doses of medicine…or $7 outfits a medic team with the lifesaving drugs needed for 1 day…or $25 buys the penicillin needed for a team for 6 months…there’s no donation too small NOT to make a big difference.

In a society where many people feel isolated or incapable of effecting change, Burma Humanitarian Mission provides a conduit for individuals to have a real positive impact on those who have no hope…but for their generosity.

Connecting Communities

Conditions in Burma continue to be deadly for the ethnic minority groups living in northern and eastern Burma.

During the month of October, the Burma army attacked the Kachin people (in northern Burma) at least 15 times. Among the assaults, the army shelled villages with mortars and artillery. At least one child was killed, 2 more children injured and 1 adult also injured. This violence occurred against a backdrop of ‘lesser’ crimes, such as villagers forced to carry supplies or work for the army (at no pay), to be human shields and the persistent use of rape as a form to intimate villagers.

In November, things have not gotten better. For three days, the Burma army attacked near Makhaw Yan village. The combined artillery and infantry assaults resulted in the death of a 15 year old.

Meanwhile, across Burma as a whole, more than 1,000 individuals remain jailed as political prisoners.

At the same time, major donor nations are stepping back from support to community based organizations who provide grass-roots social, educational and medical services. Australia announced that they will no longer support the Dr Cynthia’s Mae Tao clinic – a fundamental source of medical care for displaced and impoverished minorities from Burma.

Such news reports are overshadowed by reports of Aung San Suu Kyi has departed Burma for a tour of Europe. At the same time, a plethora of international companies are moving into Burma to take advantage of the underdeveloped resources – hyrdro-power, gems, gold, timber and the like.
These are clearly mixed signals about conditions and life in Burma.
In light of such an environment, what do fair-minded, compassionate individuals do? How can they be a positive force of change to make positive things happen?

Get involved with the ‘small’ non-profits like us. These organizations provide a conduit for positive change. Donations, sacrifices from one’s monthly budget, do go directly to those who need the support.

Burma Humanitarian Mission had a volunteer recently who realized the personal value of this process. The individual ran a marathon as part of the Run for Burma team. He ran as a means to raise awareness and funds. He shared afterwards how this opportunity transformed his life:

“Run for Burma not only gave me something to contribute to, but awakened me to issues that I hadn’t followed in the past. And, it brought friends and family closer–merging what I like to do (running) and with something they can do.”

So, what did this runner do when he raised $500? The runner’s efforts will support a medic team for 1 month in Burma. This team will be the sole source of medical and health care for between 2,000 and 2,500 people. Based on past experience, during that month, the team will:
– Deliver 7 babies
– Treat 12 malaria patients
– Treat 14 pneumonia patients

Our lives have lots of inhibitors and frustrations that impede how we seek to change the world around us. Fortunately, there are pockets of opportunities that opens avenues for kindness and compassion to flow.