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Fulfilling Health Needs in Karen State, Burma

on February 23, 2012

PHR congratulates the 20 medics who graduated from the Free Burma Rangers (FBR) Jungle Medical School last week. This is the first class to graduate from the new FBR training facility inside Karen State, Burma.

The students spent one year at the school observing in a clinic and attending lectures on the anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, signs and symptoms and diagnoses of the diseases they saw in the clinic.

“This focused the curriculum on the common things the students would see as medics.  It also taught them how to deal with the problem with the resources we can get in that environment,” Dr Mitch Ryan, a lecturer at the school, told PHR.

The students followed a rigorous schedule that started at daybreak. In addition to clinical training, they had physical fitness training, worked on the hospital compound, visited patients in the clinic and in the hospital, cooked, carried food, ported supplies into the remote camp, and studied.  According to Dr. Ryan, the students were very motivated--many of them had a family member who suffered or sometimes died because there was no medical care available in their village.

The new medics will be addressing a tremendous need. Civil war has been raging in Karen State for over 60 years and has had devastating effects on civilians’ health there. In addition to trauma from landmines and fighting, people suffer from malaria, malnutrition, diarrhea and even elephantiasis. These diseases can be prevented and treated in peaceful settings with functioning health systems, but this is far from the case in Karen State.

The Burmese government has invested almost nothing in clinics in rural areas, and several community-based organizations, including FBR, have educated medics and opened clinics to serve the people there. FBR and other organizations serve hundreds of thousands of ethnic minority peoples in remote areas, and the Jungle Medical School will help to expand the capacity of community groups working to provide healthcare in rural Burma. PHR applauds these efforts to fulfill the right to health and calls on the international community to continue its support for these groups.

Places: Burma