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"No Backup Out There"

In the mountainous jungle of eastern Myanmar, a petite 24-year-old Karen woman peels back layers of white plastic and cloth wrapped around a stalk of sugar cane — a prop simulating bone, muscle and skin — before cutting it with a cable saw to practice amputation.

The exercise — part of a trauma skills workshop facilitated by CPI and our partner organization, the Karen Department of Health and Welfare  (KDHW) — is a stark reminder of the border region’s rampant malaria, malnutrition and conflict-related trauma, including one of the world’s highest rates of landmine injuries.

Trauma Care

There are no doctors or hospitals for eastern Myanmar’s half million displaced civilians, living in a region with one of the highest rates of landmine injuries in the world. Rapid access to trauma care is critical for landmine victims because of blood loss and severity of injury: approximately one in three survivors require amputation.

Eastern Myanmar: Measles Outbreak

It was a routine, sweltering mid-April day in a village for internally displaced people living just one kilometer from the Thailand-Myanmar border. Then a medic counted up five kids she had seen with coughs, pink eye and a red rash all over the body.

Were there more children with these symptoms in their village? Many, the medic was told, and she immediately suspected measles, a vaccine-preventable virus that is highly contagious and can spread quickly, especially where malnutrition is rife and healthcare services almost non-existent.

Child Health

A capsule of Vitamin A reduces blindness and a child’s chance of death by one-third. Deworming medication just twice a year combats malnutrition and improves a child’s cognitive capacities. Like immunizations, these are simple, effective and low cost interventions that greatly improve family and community health.

Saving Mothers' Lives

At midnight in the rugged jungle of eastern Myanmar, a village headman’s young daughter was in labor, lying on a mat in the small hut she shared with her husband. She was petite and anemic from malnutrition and a history of malaria. A traditional birth attendant, an older woman relying on experience and local remedies, was by her side. The baby finally emerged, a healthy squalling boy. But the placenta did not come out, and the situation quickly turned dire as the new mother began to bleed heavily.

Reproductive Health in Myanmar: The MOM Project

Women in eastern Myanma face enormous risks having children: the vast majority are anemic and deliver their babies without trained assistance or access to emergency obstetric services. Nearly 1% of pregnancies result in maternal death, mostly from bleeding after delivery or infection — one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world.

Thai-Myanmar Border: Malaria Epidemic Averted

The Thai-Myanmar border is often described as an "epicenter" of drug-resistant malaria. Malaria prevalence (the proportion of the population with the disease at any time) among internally displaced people in eastern Myanmar is up to twenty times higher than across the border in Thailand.

Malaria and Emerging Drug Resistance in Myanmar

Myanmar has historically been a regional epicenter of spreading resistance to vital anti-malarial drugs, and currently records Ithe second most malaria deaths of any country in Southeast Asia. The situation is worst in the remote and underserved ethnic minority border regions, which are largely inaccessible to large-scale international efforts.

HEALTH

Safe births, children who have essential immunizations and enough to eat, prevention and treatment of infectious disease, community health education — these are the foundations for healthy, vigorous communities.

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