No Medicine – Diarrhea Outbreak Sweeps Through Karen Village

Medics in southern Burma said that they do not have enough medicine to treat a diarrhea epidemic that has swept through a Karen village.

Medics for the Karen National Union said that as many as 40 villagers from K’neh Kaw (Pya Tha Chaung) in Dawei Township, in Sothern Burma are sick and needed emergency treatment.

A Karen medic working in the area told Karen News that for the moment they have managed to contain the infection from spreading.

Saw Living Stone, a medic working with the KNU Mergui-Tavoy District Health Department told Karen News.

“The diarrhea spread throughout the village on 24 September. Within a few days over 40 villagers were sick. The infection took hold and spread quickly because there is lack of medicine. We were only able to contain it after the KNU Welfare and Health Department in Mergui-Tavoy sent emergency medicine to our area.”

Saw Living Stone said it was critical to have medicine to treat and to stop the spread of the infection to other villages in the area.

“Now we have medicine for the patients we can also shield the other communities. We don’t know what caused the outbreak of diarrhea yet, but we trying to find out. Luckily there has not been any loss of life.”

K’neh Kaw villager is a Karen village in the east of Dawei town and there is no clinic. The KNU health workers operate in the area but they have a lack of medicine.

A 2010 report, Diagnosis: Critical, by healthcare professionals working in eastern Burma found that years of military rule had eroded health services.

“Public health is another casualty of decades of military rule with chronic disinvestment in basic, essential social services. Knowledge of sanitation and safe drinking water use remains low.”

The report found that the “main causes of morbidity and mortality in the country are overwhelmingly preventable, from disease entities such as malaria, malnutrition, diarrhea, acute respiratory illnesses, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.”

The report also detailed a number of other contributing factors to ill-health in eastern Burma such as “almost all health-related services must be paid for out-of-pocket, including basic primary and preventive healthcare. Given that the country’s per capita income is $1,100 according to 2009 estimates, and that the average Burmese household is estimated to spend over 70% of the household budget on food alone, (constituting one of the world’s worst food insecurity situations), official health services are an unaffordable luxury for most Burmese.”

The report was the produced in collaboration with “the Burma Medical Association, Back Pack Health Workers Team, National Health and Education Committee, as well as several ethnic health organisations. Support was provided by the Global Health Access Program and the Center for Public Health and Human Rights, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.”

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