Karen Health Workers Push For Recognition

The Karen Department of Health and Welfare continues to push the Burma government to recognize its community health workers and to extend its health service.

In its recent meeting in Nay Pyi Taw on 30 September, the Karen Department of Health and Welfare discussed with Dr. Thein Thein Htay, the deputy Minister of Health and member of his department.

The KDHW delegation was led by its head, Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo who said that his organization discussed how to extend its health service, immunization services, the Malaria Control Program and reproductive and child health issues.

KDHW also urged the government to give the recognition to the KTHW health workers who have been providing health care in eastern Burma.
Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo spoke to Karen News.

“The KDHW health workers will continue to provide health services in Karen State and other Karen area where government health workers cannot reach. In the future we will cooperate with the government. If we give training to Village Health Workers, or to Community Health Workers we will also invite trainers from the government. After the training we will give certificates in order for the health workers to be recognized by the government.”

Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo said that recognition of Karen health workers by the government is problematic as the health curriculum from the KTHW and government differ, but stressed that KDHW would continue to negotiate with the government for recognition.

Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo pointed out that the governments training of health workers is different to that of the KDHW.

“Our community health workers have been trained for six months while the government’s have been trained for five weeks. Our community health workers can carry out treatment, but the government health workers are only allowed to provide heath prevention service. Some of our health workers are extensively qualified.”

Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo said KDHW would continue to try to work with the government’s heath departments.

In the future we will try to find ways to negotiate to send people who graduated from grade 12 in the KNU’s (Karen National Union) administration areas to apply for the government community health worker and nursing courses. If they are qualified, they will have the right to attend it. We will also ask the government to provide us their health curriculum so we can ask Thailand Thammasat University to train our community health workers.”

KDHW have held meetings with the Kayin (Karen) State government health ministers since September 2012 and have proposed and discussed cooperation of health care services with the government.

The KDHW has informed the government it is about to establish a KDHW Coordination office in Hpa-An.

Saw Eh Kalu Shwe Oo said that the health minister voice no objections to this.

“The government minister told us that there is no problem for KDHW setting up our office in Hpa-an.”

The KDHW was formed by the Karen National Union to provide and deliver basic healthcare, emergency relief assistance and health education to Karen communities living in Burma and along Thai-Burma Border.

In a recent column in Karen News health analysts Samantha Carter and Naw Htoo Htoo described Burma’s health system as in need of a massive overhaul.

“Although Burma’s government increased spending on health care in 2013, the rise brought healthcare spending to 3.9 percent of the country’s total budget. While the increase is promising, Burma remains one of the world’s lowest countries in terms of total money allocated to health care.”

The British medical journal, the Lancet, found that, “Burma has some of the worst health indicators in the world. Life expectancy is 56 years, 40% of all Burmese children under the age of 5 are moderately stunted, and Burma has more than 50% of all malaria-related deaths in Southeast Asia.”

Ms Carter and Ms Htoo point out in their Karen News column that, “the World Bank, ranks Burma in the lowest percentile when it comes to government effectiveness, regulatory quality, and control of corruption—all key factors when it comes to ensuring that the government’s increased spending on health care reaches intended targets.”

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