Myanmar's rights abuses create health crisis

Of the 2,000 households surveyed in Myanmar, a third had suffered from forced labour and 10 per cent from forced displacement.

india Updated: Sep 08, 2006 12:06 IST

Rampant human rights abuses have created a humanitarian crisis in eastern Myanmar, on a par with other disaster zones seen only in Africa, says the first epidemiological survey on the country's conflict areas.

The survey, aimed at demonstrating the correlation between rights abuses and declining health, was conducted by the Back Pack Health Workers, voluntary mobile health units that have been operating in eastern Myanmar since 1998.

'Chronic Emergency', the first survey of health conditions in a region where the government is waging a campaign against ethnic rebel groups, found that mortality rates, disease and malnutrition were far higher than elsewhere.

"The mortality rates are more like those of Angola, Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone and other disaster zones," said Voravit Suwannvanichkij, a researcher from John Hopkins University who helped compile the survey.

Infant mortality in the area was found to be 91 to every 1,000 births, compared with Myanmar's national average of 76 per 1,000 and Thailand's 18 per 1,000.

Child mortality for under-five-year was 221 per 1,000, compared with Myanmar's average of 106 per 1,000 and Thailand's 21 per 1,000.

"One out of every 12 women in this area may lose her life around the time of childbirth, deaths that are largely preventable," said the survey report.

By far the biggest killer in the area was malaria, which infects 12 per cent of the population, giving rise to increasing incidents of drug resistant forms of the disease.

Of the 2,000 households surveyed, a third had suffered from forced labour, 10 per cent from forced displacement and a quarter had had their food confiscated or destroyed by the Myanmar military.

First Published: Sep 08, 2006 12:06 IST