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Eileen Kilgour
Eileen Kilgour campaign leader

Clinic in Crisis, please read for more details.

Clinic in crisis, Bangkok Post, Thailand.

Dr Cynthia Maung has won 14 international awards for her humanitarian work at the Mae Tao Clinic on the Thai-Burma border. In 1989, its founding year, her clinic treated 2,000 patients - by 2010, that figure surged to a massive 140,000

Published: 9/05/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Spectrum

Most of the Burmese people coming to Dr Cynthia Maung's clinic are in dire need of medical care not available to them in their home country. Their plight puts a spotlight on the health and humanitarian crisis created in Burma by the ruling military regime and its military focused policies.

NEEDING HELP: A Burmese child at Dr Cynthia’s clinic near the border. PHOTOS: PHIL THORNTON

Dr Cynthia, in spite of all the awards and kind words showered on her and the clinic, warns that the statistics are not to be misread as an achievement.

"It's not a success story, but a story of failure, the failure of the Burma military regime to care for its people," she said.

A report, Chronic Emergency, by the Back Pack Health Worker Team, an organisation that delivers medical assistance to displaced people in eastern Burma, backs up Dr Cynthia's position.

The report states that one in 10 children will die before the age of one, and more than one in five before their fifth birthday, and one in 12 women will lose their lives from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Malaria, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis rates in Burma are considered epidemics by international health organisations.

Dr Cynthia says each year the clinic sees up to 20% more patients, due to the ever-worsening humanitarian and economic crisis in Burma. The clinic offers free medical care to Burmese migrant workers, refugees and to villagers displaced by the Burmese army.

"Every year we need more and more money just to catch up. We desperately need long-term donors. Our donors are usually for only a year at a time. This creates a lot of stress for us, as we don't know if we can continue our services."

CROWDED: The sick and injured wait for lab results. A shortage of funds, medicines and other items has hit the clinic as more and more people continue to arrive. PHOTOS: PHIL THORNTON

Dr Cynthia warns the situation in Burma is not going to get better anytime soon.

"It's not just a health crisis, it's now become more complex. It's orphaned children at risk. It's the elderly, a lack of access to education, mental trauma, chronic poverty and food security. Burma has no health system, no social priorities, no welfare planning, there's no level of minimum care."

Dr Cynthia says many isolated communities are without basic necessities such as running water and electricity.

''The people's welfare is not the regime's priority. Citizens are not considered as human beings, but as something to be controlled.''

The Mae Tao Clinic is wedged between two worlds _ the hustle and bustle of Mae Sot's product-packed shops and markets, and the drabness of poverty-stricken Myawaddy on the Burmese side of the Moei River.

Belting back and forth between the two towns are fleets of old, rusting, over-used and exhaust-belching Burmese registered mini-vans. In co-ordinated moves, the vans drop off and pick up mobs of Burmese people at shops, clinics, pharmacies and markets. These people are not shopping for big-name brands or luxury goods. Most are picking up toothpaste, shampoo, headache tablets, cough syrups, soap, detergents, fish sauce, oil, tinned fish, cordial, MSG, instant noodles, salt and sugar.

SPARSE: A lack of facilities hasn’t stopped the influx of people.

Everyday taken-for-granted items on this side of the border, but in product-deprived Burma, hard-to-find or to buy.

From early morning to late afternoon, overloaded convoys of pick-up trucks disgorge people outside Dr Cynthia's clinic, as many as 500 nervous looking Burmese men, women and children in need of health care. Some, like 72-year-old Uncle Min, have travelled a long way to get help. His daughter says they spent 10 days travelling...

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