Ethnic health organizations: ‘desperate need for direct and increased international support to tackle the public health crisis in ethnic areas

A statement released by the Ethnic Health Committee (EHC), an alliance of ethnic health organizations (EHO), on May 6, 2021, said the flow of anti-coup protesters taking refuge in ethnic areas and the thousands of recently displaced villagers caused due to fighting between armed ethnic organizations and the Burmese army, the MHAs face a lack of material and financial support to come to the aid of these populations at risk.

The EHC statement points out that prior to the coup, international aid sent from central Burma could not reach EHOs due to ongoing offensives by the Burmese military, a process stalled peace and restrictive government aid policies.

Saw Nay Htoo, spokesperson for EHC said Karen News that even before the military coup, HOEs with limited resources had struggled to implement their own strategic COVID 19 screening points, quarantine centers, providing information on PPE and COVID 19 in their own languages and cultures, as well as to treat suspected cases. Now, with the increase in the population of cities and newly displaced communities, these conditions have led to a much greater need for interventions, especially on issues related to the COVID 19 pandemic.

“Ethnic health organizations did not have enough support to tackle the pandemic before the coup, with the new influx of people and new displacement we are now witnessing a growing public health crisis in ethnic areas. », Explained Saw Nay Htoo.

The EHC statement said that “the uprising against the ongoing centralized military regime has left Burma’s health workers without adequate support and has dramatically reduced Covid 19 surveillance and control activities in the center of the country. Burma”.

The EHC called for “increased international support to be sent directly to AHMs who take responsibility for the growing displaced populations in their areas, while combating the pandemic … support should include PPE, COVID-19 testing machines and COVID-19 vaccines, upgrading health infrastructure that EHOs already have the capacity to provide.

Saw Nay Htoo said it was time for international funding agencies to support EHOs directly as they have years of successful experience in this area.

“If the funding is still funneled internally while the military is still in power, that will only legitimize the regime. We want the funding to flow directly to us. We have experience in this way of working and we know that we are capable of carrying out interventions. “

The EHC statement also called on neighboring countries, including India, Bangladesh, China, and Thailand, to allow COVID-19 vaccines in EHO-controlled areas on a humanitarian basis, as well as to protect their own populations from the pandemic.

The EHC is the main alliance of ethnic health organizations that directly provide health care in the administrative regions of the Mon, Karen, Karenni and Shan ethnic armed organizations along the Thai-Burma border, as well as in the border regions of Kachin and Chin states.

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