12: Health security among internally displaced and vulnerable populations in eastern Burma

Mahn Mahn, Katherine C. Teela, Catherine I. Lee and Cara O’Connor

Table of Contents

The current security situation in eastern Burma
The health status of internally displaced persons
Border-based health programs
Case study: Border-Based Reproductive Health Coordination Group
Case study: health information systems training
Success of border-based health programs
Case study: expansion of the BPHWT
Case study: KDHW Malaria Control Program


Since 1962, Burma has been ruled by a military junta, currently known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), which has brutally suppressed the population, particularly ethnic minority groups. Burma is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse countries in the world and ethnic minorities make up a large part of its population, inhabiting approximately half of the land area of the country, especially along the country’s mountainous border frontiers. Since 2005, the military regime has greatly intensified its violent campaigns against a number of groups including the Karen, Karenni, Mon and Shan communities in eastern Burma, while maintaining strict rule in central regions as well.

More than 50 years of civil war in Burma have displaced hundreds of thousands of ethnic people. They have fled their homes, hidden for safety and/or faced forced relocation. Compounding their loss of home and security, conflict and human rights violations have stolen their basic human right to health—with those living along the border and in the remote interior of Burma most severely affected. The military junta has consistently blocked efforts by community-based and international organisations to deliver humanitarian aid to these restricted border regions. Alternative approaches to the provision of basic and essential public health programs in these areas that utilise the existing ethnic health organisations are urgently needed.