A statement put out by the Ethnic Health Committee (EHC), an alliance of Ethnic Health Organizations (EHOs), on May 6, 2021, said the flow of anti-coup protestors taking refuge in ethnic areas and the thousands of recently displaced villagers caused by fighting between ethnic armed organizations and the Burma Army, meant EHOs face lack material and financial support to assist these at risk populations.
The EHC statement points out that before the coup, international aid sent through central Burma was unable to reach EHOs because of ongoing Burma Army offensives, a stalled peace process and restrictive government aid policies.
Saw Nay Htoo, spokesperson for the EHC told Karen News that even before the military coup, EHOs with limited resources had struggled to implement their own strategic COVID 19 screening points, quarantine centers, providing PPE and COVID 19 information in their own languages and cultures as well as treating suspected cases. Now, with increased population from the cities and newly displaced communities, these conditions led to a much greater needs to carry out interventions, especially on issues related to COVID 19 pandemic.
“Ethnic health organizations had insufficient support to fight the pandemic prior to the coup, with the new influx of people and new displacements, we are witnessing a growing public health crisis in ethnic areas now,” Saw Nay Htoo explained.
The EHC statement said the “the uprising against the ongoing centralized military rule has left Burma’s health workers without adequate support and severely reduced Covid 19 surveillance and control activities in central Burma.”
The EHC called for “increased international support be sent directly to EHOs who bear 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 the health infrastructures that the EHOs already have the capability to deliver.”
Saw Nay Htoo said it’s time the international funding agencies gave their support directly to the EHOs as they have years of successful experience of operating in this environment.
“If funding is still channeled inside with the military still in power, it will only legitimize the regime. We want funding channeled directly to us. We have the experience operating this way and we know we are capable of delivering successful interventions.”
The EHC statement also requested neighboring countries including India, Bangladesh, China and Thailand to allow COVID-19 vaccines into EHOs controlled areas as a humanitarian gesture as well as to protect their own populations from the pandemic.
The EHC is the main alliance of Ethnic Health Organizations that directly deliver health care in Mon, Karen, Karenni, and Shan Ethnic Armed Organizations administrative regions along Thai-Burma border, as well as in Kachin state and Chin state border areas.