Mae Tao Clinic – a vital health service

Oct 31, 2017

A vital health service

Since it was founded in 1989, the Mae Tao Clinic has served as a primary health facility along the Thailand-Burma border. For many conflict- and poverty-affected people in the region, Mae Tao Clinic is the only option to access health care, as the clinic provides its services free of charge. Without its operations, hundreds of thousands will be at risk of losing access to affordable and quality healthcare, particularly along the Thailand-Burma/Myanmar border.

Mae Tao Clinic’s patients come from far and wide to seek the primary care provided by the clinic.  The patients are diverse in nature and background, including refugees, and subsistence farmers from eastern Burma/Myanmar, as well as undocumented migrant workers residing in Thailand. The clinic’s major focus is maternal and child health; however, chronic diseases, infectious diseases and trauma patients are also treated at the clinic. Last year, over 110,000 patients visited the clinic and more than 2,500 women safely delivered their babies. Should the clinic be pushed to cut its programs due to funding shortages, patients will be forced to cover high out-of-pocket expenses for treatment in other facilities, which many cannot afford. Communities will avoid seeking health care altogether, which will worsen their health status and place their already vulnerable lives at risk.

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA has been supporting the work of Dr Cynthia’s Mae Tao Clinic since 1996. In 2013 Dr Cynthia received the Sydney Peace Prize for her “…dedication to multi-ethnic democracy, human rights and the dignity of the poor and dispossessed, and for establishing health services for victims of conflict.”

Political fragility in Myanmar

Even though the partial signing of the 2015 nationwide ceasefire agreement is regarded as a first step towards peace, the situation in Myanmar remains fragile. The armed conflict in the north of the country continues to intensify, while fighting also occasionally flares up in the southeast. The decades of armed conflict have produced over 640,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), while over 96,000 refugees still reside in camps along the Thailand-Burma/Myanmar border. In addition, land-grabbing is endemic across the country, contributing to further displacement and migration of the most vulnerable and marginalized people. Those seeking medical care under these conditions are presented with huge barriers, particularly in accessing facilities that provide adequate and affordable care.

Funding cuts threaten services

The ongoing funding shortage will force Mae Tao Clinic to significantly reduce its activities, particularly in 2018. It will become increasingly difficult to train new health workers, pay staff and provide necessary care at a level required to protect the lives and health of the community they serve. The Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) has officially launched a fundraising campaign to make sure they can keep caring for the vulnerable community from Burma/Myanmar in coming years.
Please watch and share the video below as Dr Cynthia explains how the Clinic is of indispensable value in the region.

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