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Mae Tao Clinic
Kai Nedden

In Burma, the military junta has been in power since 1962. Pushes for democracy in 1988 and 2007 have been brutally repressed. The military junta denounced the results of democratic elections in 1990, won by the National League for Democracy (NLD) and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the NLD, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

A United Nations special report on Burma documented that the Burmese military continues to unlawfully confiscate land, displace villagers, demand forced labour, and use violence (including rape, torture, and murder) against those who protest such brutality. The World Health Organization ranked Burma’s health sector 190 out of 191 countries. UNICEF estimates that the government spends about $0.40 per capita on healthcare. This is represents less than 3% of national budget going towards healthcare, while 40% goes towards military expenses.

Malnutrition levels among children are over 15 percent. The local understanding of sanitation and hygiene remains low, as does access to clean water and basic sanitation facilities. This leads to high levels of associated diseases such cholera and diarrhoea, among others diseases. A great number of deaths are preventable but the Burmese military does not show any effort to do so. Diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are a huge problem.

Many people also come to the clinic because of landmine wounds. It is estimated that 70% of the eastern border .is mined. A landmine is a weapon, that is not used to decimate but to mutilate it’s victims. The Mae Tao Clinic provides free surgical and prosthetic help for these victims.

The Mae Tao Clinic is located in Thailand directly at the Burmese border near the small town of Mae Sot. It provides free health care for refugees, migrant workers, and other individuals, who dare to flee across the border. People of all ethnicities and religions are welcome at the Clinic. Mae Tao developed from being just a few cottages with helpers to a clinic with physicians and volunteers for most injuries and diseases. It has departments in prosthetic, surgical, pediatrics, accupuncture, an eye clinic and an intensive care unit. It is financed solely by donations. For many Burmese, it is the first health care they have ever received in their life.

The Mae Tao Clinic is one of those rare lights in the world that need more attention so it can continue its work and create awareness about this critical, yet almost forgotten issue.