Fulfilling Health Needs in Karen State, Burma

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 newFBR training facility inside Karen State, Burma.

The students spent one year at the school observing in aclinic 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 thestudents would see as medics.  It also taught them how to deal with theproblem with the resources we can get in that environment,” Dr Mitch Ryan, alecturer at the school, told PHR.

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

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

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

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