Karen and govt health workers agree to work together

The Burma government and Karen health officials have agreed to join forces to combat malaria in rural communities.

Officers from the Karen National Union (KNU) health department and the Dr Win Naing, the Burma government health director for Karen State, agreed to cooperate to fight malaria at a recent meeting in Karen State.

The head of the Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW), Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo, spoke to Karen News.

“We discussed the importance of health issues [and] that we should prioritize our cooperation – other less important health issues we will tackle later.”

The initial meeting was held on March 23 in Hpa-an Town. Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo’s KDHW team met with the government health director for Karen State, Dr Win Naing and other health officers to talk about working together to provide health care in Eastern Burma.

The KNU and the Burma government reached a cease-fire in January last year.

Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo said.

“We initially agreed focus on three areas – to prevent and combat malaria, prevention of maternal deaths and the government’s recognition of Karen health workers.”

Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo said the Dr Win Naing, the Karen State health director has agreed in principal that these issues are important.

“They [government officers] agreed with our position. But said they first needed to report the issue back to Naypyiday for approval. For our side we still need to draft a detailed health care plan and report back to the KNU’s Central Executive Committee for their approval.”

Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo explained that malaria is a “big concern”.

Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo said that last year ‘drug resistance malaria’ was found in Cambodia and along Thai-Burma border.

“We are seeing that malaria is now resistant to the most effective drugs – Artesunate and Mefloquine. To prevent the spread of malaria is our top priority.”

Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo said his group discussed with the government the issue of recognition for Karen health workers who provide health services in Eastern Burma.

Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo said.

“We asked them to recognized our health workers; Health Assistants, Medics, Community Health Workers, Village Health Workers, and Traditional Birth Attendants.”

Before the KNU and Burma government reached a cease-fire last year, Karen health workers were at risk of arrest and detention. In government designated ‘black zones’ ‘shoot on sight’ orders where in place, health workers risked death for providing health service to Karen communities.

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