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Once again this year, Mitgefühl in Aktion and our partner organization Buddhist Global Relief are supporting the Backpack Medics program, which was founded in 1999 by the Burma Humanitarian Mission.
"Backpack Medics" are backpack-carrying paramedics who are active in regions where there is no or insufficient medical care. Since 2020, this work has been carried out under extremely difficult conditions. The areas of operation in the west and north of Myanmar (specifically in the states of Arakan, Kachin, and Shan) are experiencing the most intense fighting. Three quarters of the backpacking paramedics are women, for whom this job is a chance to get a professional education and to be employed in the future. We help them by providing their children with safety, stability, and schooling. The most common job for backpack paramedics is treating of injuries and illnesses - the most common being malaria, respiratory infections and dysentery, as well as acting as midwives for pregnant women.
Since the coup in February 2020, the military has continued its aggressive policies against ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar. In Kachin State in northern Myanmar, 97,000 villagers have had to flee due to fighting, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The Pa'laung areas in northern Shan and southern Kachin State have seen repeated armed attacks. On October 7, 900 villagers fled to refugee camps when the Burmese Army attacked their villages of Namhee and Pan Khai. One villager was injured and was treated by backpack medics. In Chin State in northern Myanmar, Burmese fighter jets bombed the village of Wohma on March 5, killing 8 villagers and injuring a dozen. The villagers fled to the Sami refugee camp. In Karen State in eastern Burma, the Burma Army opened artillery fire on Kyauk Gyi Township villages in December 2020, causing 4,000 villagers to flee. The army prevented any medical professionals from providing care or medical assistance to the refugees.
On May 12, 2022, a Burmese army battalion in Ler Doh Township sent a drone to drop bombs in Ain Net village in Karen State. Afterwards, the army carried out ground attacks. A monastery was damaged and a child was injured. In the last week of June 2022, Burmese fighter jets bombed villages in Doo Tha Htu, Kler Lwee Htu, Mutraw, Ternawtheri and Dooplaya townships.
On June 24, 25-year-old teacher Naw Dah Dah Aye and her one-year-old daughter Naw Win Kyu Paw were killed by Burmese military artillery fire. On June 25, 2022, Burmese military forces from the Light Infantry Division 44 raided Kaw Kyat Ther (Burmese: Htone Bo Lay) village in Doo Tha Htu County, destroying many houses and stores. Civilians were forced to flee and 10 villagers, including a 12-year-old girl, were arrested and killed. On the same day, the Burmese military began burning down the houses in the village. The next day, they continued burning homes until the entire village was burned to the ground, including schools and a monastery. One disabled man was burned alive because he could not escape.
In the first week of August 2022, Burmese forces bombed villages in the northernmost part of Kachin State and shelled them with artillery, killing at least two children and up to 30 other villagers. Two Buddhist monks also died. On August 23, 2022, Burma Army troops fired four rounds of 81-mm mortars at Day Law Poo village. A 56-year-old woman was killed and her 60-year-old husband suffered injuries to his head and right thigh, and their house was also destroyed by the shelling.
In Kachin State in northern Myanmar, 97,000 villagers have been forced to flee due to fighting, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Pa'laung areas in northern Shan and southern Kachin State have seen repeated armed attacks. On October 7, 900 villagers fled to refugee camps when the Burma Army attacked their villages of Namhee and Pan Khai. One villager was injured and was treated by backpack medics. In Chin State in northern Myanmar, Burmese fighter jets bombed Wohma village on March 5, killing 8 villagers and injuring a dozen. The villagers fled to the Sami refugee camp. In Karen State in eastern Burma, the Burmese Army opened artillery fire on Kyauk Gyi Township villages in December 2020, which forced 4,000 villagers to flee. The army prevented any medical professionals from providing care and medical assistance to the refugees.
The Child Development Center was established for the children of backpacking medics in cooperation with Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot Thailand. 50-55 children receive schooling at the Center, which is accepts only Burmese children, as Thailand does not allow them to be taught in the country's schools. There they learn not only languages, mathematics and science, but also their own ethnic language, culture and history. The children also receive meals at the Center. Mitgefühl in Aktion, together with Buddhist Global Relief, has committed to providing scholarships for these students for 2023. Please make a donation to help these children secure a good education and a life free from persecution.
Here is Phau's story: "I am 16 years old and attend 10th grade at the Children's Development Center (CDC). I am originally from Karen State, Burma. Of my 4 siblings, only my youngest brother and I attend school, while my two older brothers decided to set aside their studies to earn money in order to support us. At boarding school we are assigned group tasks such as cooking and cleaning. The most important thing in my life is education. I strongly believe that education is the source of wisdom. Education is like a friend who helps you overcome difficulties.
I like 3 subjects in school: Thai, English and math. Although we are from Burma, in our region knowing Thai is beneficial and even necessary to some extent. English is indispensable if you want to continue studying. I want to study at university and hope to improve my English. Apart from languages, I like mathematics because it is easy for me. My dream is to become a translator. I think this will not only give me a good opportunity to earn a good income, but also more opportunities to help people who encounter language barriers. One day, I helped migrant workers translate between Burmese Thai and Karen Thai in a Thai hospital. This experience was very special to me because I found out what I want to do in the future."
"My name is Oh. I am originally from Karen State, Burma. I have 2 younger sisters who are currently living in one of the guesthouses in Mae Sot in Mae Sot, Thailand. My mother is a health care worker. My father works in Burma is quite insecure; he works here and there. With my parents' income, my sisters and I could not attend the option school. Nevertheless, they did not want us to give up our studies. They looked for a way for us to continue studying and found out that we could study in CDC. My parents want us to get a good education and have a better life in the future.
Fotos: Burma Humanitarian Mission, Text: Tobias Trapp