Blocked Access to Healthcare Creating 'Health Emergency' in Myanmar

by Rathi Manohar on  October 20, 2010 at 6:17 PM General Health News   - G J E 4
Even treatable illnesses are ending in deaths, with the junta blocking access to healthcare in violence-ravaged eastern Myanmar.
 Blocked Access to Healthcare Creating 'Health Emergency' in Myanmar
Blocked Access to Healthcare Creating 'Health Emergency' in Myanmar

A "chronic health emergency" in the ethnic areas strung along the border with Thailand mean that 59 percent of deaths are preventable, said the report, titled "Diagnosis: Critical".

The military lets civilians bear the consequences of its fight with minority rebels in the country -- also known as Burma -- through insufficient investment in healthcare, conflict and humanitarian abuses, it said.

Child mortality rates are nearly double the official national figure, while maternal mortality is three times as high, according to the study by groups including the Back Pack Health Worker Team and Burma Medical Association.

"Health indicators for theses communities, particularly for women and children, are worse than Burma's official national figures, which are already amongst the worst in the world," the report found.

It warned that "widespread human rights abuses" against ethnic civilians and a "blockade of international humanitarian access" meant premature deaths would continue.

Abuses such as forced labour and the destruction of food are driving poverty, migration, sickness and premature death, Sriprapha Petcharamesree, a rights expert at Mahidol University in Thailand, wrote in the report.

"The inability of the peoples of eastern Myanmar to enjoy basic rights is killing them," she added.

Violence was described as "endemic" in the areas -- which include places where ethnic rebel groups such as the Shan State Army and the Karen National Liberation Army operate -- and accounted for 2.3 percent of deaths.

Malaria was responsible for nearly a third of deaths in children under five, while diarrhoea was responsible for 17 percent of fatalities in this age group.

"Measures are needed now to address this chronic crisis," Sriprapha said, calling for Myanmar and the international community to take action.

Community groups aim to provide healthcare in the absence of state provision, but these are severely hampered by conflict, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and lack of resources.

The report was based on data collected in interviews with 5,754 households in the areas of Shan, Mon, Kayin, Tanintharyi, Kayah and Bago between October 2008 and January 2009.

Source: AFP

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