Burma has the worst health record in Southeast Asia. The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranked Burma’s health system as the world’s second worst out of 191 countries. Burma’s official spending on health per capita is estimated to be $0.74 (24 baht) compared with its Thailand, which invests $89 (2, 955 baht) per capita. The UN’s Development Programme’s Human Development Index ranked Burma 130 out of 177 countries.

Burmese people have no option but to come to Thailand for basic health care. People in Burma are dying because there’s no access to the most basic, cost-effective health interventions that should be available at home. Over 7 percent of Burmese children will not survive to their first birthday, 10 percent will die before their fifth and one in 12 women will lose their lives from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. In Eastern Burma one in 10 children will die before the age of one, and more than one in five before their fifth birthday. Malaria, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis rates in Burma are considered epidemics by international health organizations.

A John Hopkins School Of Public Health report, The Gathering Storm, estimates that Burma’s military regime spends as little as ”3% of national expenditure on health, while the military, with a standing army of over 400,000 troops, consumes 40%”.

Doctors in Burma are frustrated by the lack of equipment and medicine needed to do their job. They are not allowed to report disease outbreaks or speak truthfully about ill health. They have to manage on out-of-date medicines and unreliable electricity supplies.

The humanitarian organization, the Thai Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), estimates “…that more than 3,200 settlements were destroyed, forcibly relocated or otherwise abandoned in Eastern Burma between 1996 and 2007.”

The TBBC report that at least 470,000 people are internally displaced in eastern Burma alone. Between 2006 and 2007 the Burmese army burnt down villages, laid landmines and drove more than 76,000 villagers from their homes into jungle hideouts.

The Burmese military regime has turned Burma into one of the cruelest places in the world to live. Secret police and para-military thugs have been dispatched in hundreds of nighttime raids to drag opposition politicians, journalists, labor activists, artists, comedians, internet-bloggers and Buddhists monks and nuns from their beds.

The arrested are rarely charged, instead are held, interrogated and tortured for days or months without access to lawyers or family in secret detention centers, jails or police cells.The regime Draconian sentences recently handed down have ranged from three to sixty-nine years for acts of so-called civil disobedience. The regime has jailed more than 2,100 political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 14-years under house arrest.

The New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has described Burma’s humanitarian crisis as ”one of the worst in the world”, and says one third of its citizens lives beneath the poverty line on about a $1 a day.

It is estimated that over 2 million Burmese people have cross the border to Thailand in the hope of work and a better life. Migrant work is often dirty, dangerous and degrading.

Most of the Burmese people coming to Dr Cynthia Maung’s Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) are in dire need of medical care not available to them in their home country.

Due to the ever-worsening humanitarian and economic crisis in Burma, MTC sees up to 20 percent more patients each year. MTC offers free medical care to Burmese migrant workers, refugees and to villagers displaced by the Burma army.

Many of the displaced patients the Burma Children’s Medical Fund cares for have exhausted all avenues of health care in their home land. They come to BCMF in desperation. You can help facilitate the treatment of these children by making a donation to BCMF today.


  1. Bangkok Post, “For Choo, it’s all work and no play”, Phil Thornton, 20 December 2009
  2. Bangkok Post, “Clinic in crisis”, Phil Thornton, 9 May 2010