What the judges said
Mae Tao Clinic’s eponymously named project won one of Ockenden International’s four annual £25,000 Prizes for improving access to essential services for vulnerable displaced communities along the Thai-Myanmar border and in eastern Myanmar. The scope of a well organised and established organisation that provides conflict-affected communities with access to quality healthcare, education for 2,100 students in boarding schools as well as child rights awareness and teachers impressed the judging panel as did the achievement of training more than 2,000 health workers from ethnic areas of Eastern Myanmar who now provide primary healthcare in their respective communities.
The Mae Tao Clinic project, operational in Thailand’s Tak province and Myanmar’s Karen state, has improved access to essential services for vulnerable and displaced communities along the Thai-Myanmar border and in Eastern Myanmar.
Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) helps conflicted affected ethnic communities in Myanmar and displaced people and un-documented migrants from Myanmar residing in Thailand, who face great challenges in accessing Thai or Myanmar government services due to social barriers such as costs, geographic isolation, legal status, language and discrimination.
While Mae Tao Clinic’s Thailand based staff provide primary healthcare at the border clinic, ethnic health workers trained at MTC provide essential health services to their conflict affected communities that include reproductive and child health, immunization, and general medical care services. The clinic also raises awareness and screening for Malaria, HIV and TB, and facilitates access to treatment in collaboration with government hospitals and local organizations. Since its inception in 1989, MTC’s health workers have provided 1.8 million consultations and assisted safe delivery of 40,000 babies.
MTC’s school provides multi-lingual education for 850 students, from kindergarten to grade 12, offering bridging programmes to integrate students in Thailand or Myanmar education system. Its school health team screens students at 30 migrant schools for malnutrition, hygiene, vision and dental health. Babies born at MTC obtain a Thai birth certificate, granting them the right to access state-provided healthcare and education, mitigating the statelessness so many undocumented refugees and IDPs endure. Since 2008, more than 28,700 babies born at MTC have been given Thai birth certificates.
Sophia arrived at MTC to attend primary health care training when she was 18 years old. She had lived in the nearby Huay Kaloke refugee camp since her village was burned down by the Myanmar military when she was four years old. Sophia determined to study maternal and child care after her mother experienced complications during childbirth deciding she wanted to help other women in similar situations. MTC provided the only opportunity for her to continue her study and realize her goal of becoming a maternal and child health worker. Since then Sophia has completed more advanced healthcare training and is now working as a deputy director of Health Services at MTC.
Additionally, MTC supports 2,100 students in boarding houses with dry food rations and hygiene products, which enables them to stay at school, reducing the risk of their becoming child labourers. MTC’s education and child protection programme provides refugees and undocumented children with an education, which significantly boosts their prospects in either their mother country or host country, transforming them into a resourceful workforce.
Another successful initiative is MTC’s 30 years of engagement in the development of the ethnic health infrastructure in Eastern Myanmar where it has strengthened community-based health systems during the time of active armed conflict as well as at the stage of ceasefire. More than 2000 health workers from ethnic areas of Myanmar have been trained at MTC to provide primary healthcare in their respective communities, strengthening the health systems in areas often neglected by government.
In the face of much uncertainty for Myanmar refugees and displaced communities, MTC has established and maintained a sustainable community – run by refugees for refugees and displaced people for the refugees and other displaced people – through community empowerment. Rooted on the values of community ownership and sustainability, MTC has built a strong and efficient network with ethnic communities, community-based organisations and other local agencies, improving access to essential healthcare services for conflict-affected people by strengthening the capacity of the existing community’s workforce and system.
Narumoon Maungjamrad of Mae Tao Clinic’s Fundraising and Grants Team, said: “This is truly encouraging for our health workers, teachers, and community workers during this challenging time. The realization of our efforts in building resilience of and promoting self-reliance in the displaced communities is only possible because of the courage within the communities and the enduring supports from our friends, partners and supporters.
Naw Htoo was one of the founders of Mae Tao Clinic. She had to flee her village after she joined the 1988 uprising against the injustice and brutality of Myanmar’s military regime. From 1989 to 2008, she worked as a Maternal and Child Worker and Trainer. She is currently working as a social manager where she oversees the social services for MTC staff, patients and their families.
Ockenden International’s four cash prizes recognize and reward innovative work that delivers evidential self-reliance to refugees and/or IDPs, the hallmark of Ockenden International since its inception in 1951.
The four annual prizes are open to projects or programmes focused on Internally Displaced People (IDP)/refugee self-reliance anywhere in the world. The 2020 finalists were (with the other three winners italicised):
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