Access to heath care is a major concern for Burmese migrant workers in Thailand. Although there are some systems in place to help registered migrants gain access to the country’s health care system, those who are undocumented or who live in isolated areas depend on FED and other NGOs, whose healthcare teams are already stretched thin.
The rate of mortality from preventable and treatable diseases (such as Dengue fever, malaria, TB) among the migrant population is substantially higher than that for the rest of the Thai population. The FED health team is also often called to assist migrants who have been injured at work. Chemical burns, lacerations, and broken bones caused by accidents on construction sites are all common. Recently, there has been a spate of attacks on Burmese people, including knife attacks, beatings and rape. In addition, HIV infections are increasing among the migrant population in Thailand. People living with HIV/AIDS are often unaware of their status until they become very ill.
Since 2005, the Foundation for Education and Development (FED) has been addressing the short and long term health needs of Burmese migrant families in Phang Nga province. Most Burmese migrants are afraid to go to Thai hospitals or clinics for fear of discrimination, sub-standard care, arrest and deportation. For others, it is simply not financially feasible. The vast majority of migrants do not get regular health-checkups and some do not even go to the hospital in life threatening situations. In order to combat these problems, FED has created a comprehensive health program that runs a number of projects striving to answer to the needs of the Burmese community.
FED’s dedicated team of health workers supports the migrant community within the limits of its resources and skill. The team is always “on call” to assist migrants and provide long term care to those with chronic health problems such as TB and HIV. The medics provide monthly health checks to all students at the Learning Centers and nurseries. They work alongside staff from MSF at Takuapa Hospital to track and help finance hospitalizations for migrant workers when they do occur. They also disseminate information to local migrant populations on health, hygiene and disease prevention.
The FED resident medic conducts community trainings on first aid, personal hygiene, anatomy, reproductive health, family planning and the proper use of condoms.