July 4, 2022, 0 Comments

Myanmar refugee clinic opened at Indian border

Myanmar Refugees Clinic was opened at Zokhawthar village, Mizoram state, India, on May 18, 2022, to provide healthcare services for Myanmar refugees at Zokhawthar and nearby villages. The clinic was opened by the Institute of Chin Affairs (ICA) with its partner organizations Mizo Students Union (MSU), Myanmar Refugees Relief Committee-Mizoram (MRRCM), and Chin Baptist Association of North America (CBANA). Zokhawthar is an Indian border village on the Indian side of the Tiau river. On the Myanmar side of the Tiau river is Khawmawi Tiau village of Falam township in Chin State.

The clinic operates with a medical doctor and a nurse. Due to funding limitations, the medical doctor works at the clinic three days a week. The clinic cannot also pay the doctor and the nurse as much as an outside clinic would pay. Ultimately, the doctor and nurse are working at this clinic so they can help the refugees. Since they cannot handle the vast number of patients, two other nurse volunteers are also helping them.

Patients waiting outside the clinic

In the beginning, the clinic treated over 70 patients per day. Later, it was treating more than 50 patients per day. The clinic has seen many adult patients with diabetes, patients from various age groups with seasonal flu, children with skin diseases common among the refugee children, and many other patients with multiple health issues.

There have been increasing numbers of refugees from Myanmar because of the Myanmar military coup of February 1, 2021, and subsequent suppression of the people’s protests. Many fled to Mizoram state of North-east India, which shares its border with the Chin State of Myanmar. At various places in Mizoram state, approximately 40 to 50 thousand Myanmar refugees are taking refuge.

Zokhawthar village, with over 600 households, have sheltered over 740 Myanmar refugee families (over 4500 refugees). Zokhawthar village’s resources are stretched thin since this border village hosts more refugees than its local population.

In Zokhawthar village, there is a village sub health center known to be used mostly for vaccinations. Besides this sub health center, there is Mercy Medical Center with traditional medicine doctors being operated by a non-profit organization. Therefore, healthcare service was badly required for the Myanmar refugees with difficulty accessing health care due to financial and other constraints. Most refugees are living in insecure temporary plastic shelters. The harsh monsoon season and their difficulty accessing clean water are critical concerns for their health.

Patients waiting to be seen in the clinic

The clinic is open Monday to Friday, from 9:00AM to 5:00PM, seeing refugees with different health issues. The medical doctor meets with the patients on Tuesdays and Fridays, and only the nurse is at the clinic on the remaining days. Every Wednesday, the clinic doctor and nurse with volunteer nurses travel by car to Sapianmaksak refugee camp at Mualkawi village, about 20 minutes’ drive from Zokhawthar, to treat the refugees there.

The clinic supplies equal health care to all Myanmar refugees, no matter their religion, ethnicity, or the tribe to which they belong. Every day, the clinic can treat from 50 to 70 patients, and refugees living in nearby villages also come to seek treatment.

The clinic has been providing essential healthcare services that are very beneficial for the Myanmar refugees who fled from their homes and cannot otherwise get proper healthcare due to their financial hardships. To get treatment in the past, the refugees needed to travel to Champhai town, which is about 25 kilometers from Zokhawthar but takes about 45 minutes by car due to road conditions. Most refugees could not travel to Champhai for treatment because of financial hardship to pay for transportation and other expenses. Moreover, many do not know anyone in Champhai to help them and have language problems.

Now, the refugees can get primary healthcare from this clinic. It also provides a place where a few refugees can do meaningful work for their fellow refugees. It has also received praises and words of gratitude from some local leaders.

လူနာတစ်ဦးကို Sapianmaksak ရှိ mobile clinic သို့ ခေါ်ဆောင်လာစဥ်
A patient being brought to mobile clinic at Sapianmaksak refugees camp

At the same time, the clinic has limitations in resources. Thus, it does not always have medications prescribed for the patients by the doctor. It does not also have clinical equipment and enough medications required for all the patients. There are also many difficulties and challenges, such as the inability to provide the necessary equipment and space for volunteer midwives.

Despite its many challenges, this clinic has ambitions to expand and operate a small hospital to provide better healthcare services to more refugees and open other clinics in Mizoram, where many refugees live.

The clinic can provide its services with the contributions of its donors in India and abroad. It needs continued support to continue providing vital healthcare services to the refugees and provide better and more services in the future.

Anyone who can help can do so by contacting Mai Lucy (Australia), Contact Ph. + 61431102837 or Van Nei Cem (India), Contact Ph. +919485411242 or by contacting the clinic’s email mrc_he@chinaffairs.org. One can also donate through donorbox at https://donorbox.org/myanmar-refugees-clinic.

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