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Medical relief for refugees

For more than 20 years, residents from Myanmar, mostly from the Karen ethnic group, have been fleeing to Thailand to seek refuge from human rights abuses and conflict between armed opposition groups and the Myanmar military.

Malteser International has been implementing a project providing medical care to approximately 23,000 Karen and Burmese refugees in two refugee camps – Mae Ra Ma Luang and Mae La Oon – at the Thai-Myanmar border since 1993. The project primarily equips and runs the camp clinics to provide urgently needed curative and preventive health care services. Furthermore, Malteser International aims to strengthen the capacity and self-reliance capability of the camp community in in order to prepare refugees for a potential future repatriation to their homeland.

Despite a considerable amount of resettlement in third countries, approximately 110,000 people still live in nine refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. As income opportunities are limited, these refugees are fully dependent on international support for shelter, food, education, water/ sanitation and health services. Several local and international NGOs – such as Malteser International – supply these services in close co-operation with trained camp residents in order to ensure they have access to essential facilities. The Royal Thai Government’s role is to provide the location and ensure security, as well as to supervising and coordinate the NGO activities through the Ministry of the Interior. 

  • Reduce mortality and morbidity among the refugees
  • Control communicable diseases
  • Limit the risk of epidemics and disease outbreaks
  • Improve the capacities of camp health staff
  • Increase the participation of camp communities in planning, implementing and monitoring promotional health activities

Preventive and curative health care:

  • Medical care and nursing care in camp clinics
  • Referral system for patients with complicated diseases or fractures to Thai hospitals
  • Provision of medicine, medical supplies and equipment
  • Health screening and bi-annual de-worming campaigns in schools and nursery schools
  • Dental health and hygiene in camp schools

Psycho-social care services:

  • Timely and effective response to disease outbreaks through Surveillance Rapid Response Team

Capacity Building:

  • Training of Karen health staff (e.g. Medics, Nurses, Midwives, Community Health Workers)
  • Conduct cluster health meetings and household visits in camp sections through trained community health workers
  • Awareness raising through the conduction of regular camp-wide promotional health campaigns

Country info

Capital: Bangkok
Area: 513,120 km²
Population: c. 67 Million

Project data

Project duration: since 1993
Donors: European Commission's Humanitarian aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Dr. Ulrich Reiter, private donations
Partners: Karen Refugee Committee, The Border Consortium, Camp Committees, Karen Women Organization

Last updated: July 2016

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