Burma Women’s Medical Fund (gynaecological surgery)

Women from Burma have limited access to reproductive health services and many women make the arduous journey to the Mae Tao Clinic (MTC), in Mae Sot, Thailand, in the hope of getting medical care. The clinic is the only access many people from Burma have to healthcare and is a trusted source of help. Though the clinic provides a comprehensive range of basic healthcare services with a limited amount of resources, it does not have the facilities or financial capacity to treat conditions that require surgery.

Women present at the Mae Tao Clinic with many diverse gynaecological conditions. Many of these are beyond the scope of the clinic to treat definitively. Three of the main problems currently noted by clinic staff are ovarian cysts, uterine masses, and uterine prolapse:

  • Ovarian cysts can be painful and can grow quiet large, and can in fact be cancerous;
  • Uterine masses are most commonly fibroids (benign tumors) which may be associated with pain and excessive menstrual blood loss. Since anemia is common in this population anyway, due to nutritional factors and parasites, this places an additional burden on the women;
  • Uterine prolapse is a distressing condition in which one’s insides feel like they are falling out. This is particularly the case with exertion, and exertion is an inescapable fact of life for many women inside Burma and living on the border. With advanced prolapse, the cervix and uterus protrude from the vagina. This is particularly distressing and readily resolved with hysterectomy.

Damage to the birth canal during labor, caused mainly during home births in Burma, is another common condition seen by the clinic. Included in this are vaginal fistulas and rectal-vaginal fistulas.  Most of these are open communications between the bladder and vagina giving a steady leak of urine from the vagina, leaving the woman susceptible to chronic and severe urinary tract infection. Even more distressing is a fistula between the rectum and vagina resulting in faeces from the vagina. Both of these are related to prolonged obstructed labor and thus mostly occur in young women.

Health, human rights and the restoration of dignity

Women in Burma face ongoing human rights violations and their lack of access to healthcare is a direct violation of their right to health. The actions of the ruling Burmese military regime have been shown to have a direct impact on the health of women. This is a well-documented truth. For example, a Back Pack Health Worker Team (BPHWT) report shows a direct correlation between human rights abuses in eastern Burma, and reproductive health outcomes, and shows that these abuses are directly related to the “downstream effects of war and poverty.” The debilitating gynaecological conditions women on the Thai-Burma border have to live with are directly linked to poverty and lack of access to resources. By addressing the healthcare needs of women on the Thai-Burma border we aim to restore dignity, as well as begin to redress the impact of these numerous rights violations.

Funding for women from Burma for gynaecological surgery

The treatment of these gynaecological conditions is relatively simple surgery that does not require much time in hospital, or much follow-up care. These surgeries are cheap and effective, and doctors in the West would not hesitate when it comes to referring this kind of treatment. However, women from Burma are forced to live with this burden, usually for the rest of their lives, because of the dire state of healthcare in Burma and on the border, and due to a lack of financial resources.

The formal establishment of a Burma Women Medical Fund (for gynaecological surgery) will resolve these problems. We just need the funding to get the program up and running.

Please contact katie@burmachildren.com to find out how you can help us get this vital program up and running.