The difference between a refugee and an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) is simple; a refugee seeks refuge in another country other than their own; whilst an IDP is someone who cannot live in their natural home and is seeking refuge within their own country. The conflict inside Burma caused a situation where there have been large numbers of Burmese people internally displaced by the fighting and the aggression of SPDC forces. At one time estimates of Internally Displaced People ran as high as 1.5 million but is now thought to be a lot lower than that. Over the years many different minority peoples were internally displaced, these included the Karen, Karenii, and the Shan.
The past brutality of the Burmese military has been well documented and cannot be understated. Many instances have been recorded where goverment forces have attacked villages without warning; raped the village women in full view of their families, and executed uncooperative farmers. Children were somethimes taken away and forced to become child soldiers or baggage carriers for the army.
Most IDPs did not have time to prepare to fly. They took what they could with them and ran for their lives. Often they hid in nearby forests living on boiled roots and berries. Some crossed the border into Thailand and sought refuge in the camps. Many of the IDPs are sick, and the longer they stay in hiding the more likely they are develop serious medical medical problems. Their villages were usually looted by the army who took their food animals and possessions and then burnt their villages to the ground. Sometimes they laid landmines thus making it impossible for the people to return home safely.
So in Burma there are large populations of people who are stuck in very difficult circumstances. Healthcare statistics for IDPs show that they are in bad shape with one report stating that 42.5% of death are malaria related and 1 in 12 women are dying in child birth.
Australian Mercy provides emergency aid to IDP populations inside Burma. We also recruit the services of Australian medical volunteers to help train IDP Primary Healthcare Workers who look after the IDPs who are living in hiding in the forests and camps inside Burma. These PHC workers risk their lives trying help these people.Through these medical volunteers we have started a Malaria program that trains the PHC workers in the recognition, treatment, and prevention of this disease.
Australian Mercy also partly funds a number of clinics inside Burma that are directly working with IDP populations.
Over the past three years our Buzz Off Malaria campaign has provided 21,110 Rapid Diagnostic Test kits and treated 15,425 cases of malaria in IDP areas. It has given malaria training to 122 medics working in IDP clinics, and has distributed 18,101 family sized LLIN mosquito nets into IDP areas.
Australian Mercy is committed to the long term well being of Burma’s IDPs and will continue to work with them as the peace process progresses and and repatriation becomes a more realisitic possibiolity. We ask our donors to support this long term ongoing work.
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Port Kembla, NSW, 2505, Australia
Ph: 02 4274 1090
Fax: 02 4274 9909
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ACN 008 643 258
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