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High infant mortality amongst displaced on Shan-Kayah border as medicines fail to reach

Infants and young refugee children displaced by recent fighting are dying in camps on the border between Shan and Kayah states due to a lack of basic health care and medical treatment, aid workers say.

Local aid groups say over 100,000 people have been displaced by military raids on Kayah State, Burma’s smallest region.

Intense fighting has for months raged around Demoso township and across the lake to Moe Bye and Pekon on the border with southern Shan. Thousands have attempted to make their way to Taunggyi, the Shan capital, which lies a few hours drive to the northeast, hounded out of the almost deserted Kayah capital of Loikaw by incessant and highly destructive military air raids.

“Pregnant women in our refugee camps do not have access to health care. In some cases, the baby dies before pregnancy, and others do not survive after birth. There have been six cases in our camp alone,” said an eyewitness living in the camps.

Camp workers said that, since being displaced from urban regions, infants failed to receive access to typical pre and ante-natal immunizations.

“Normally, vaccines are administered to the baby by the Department of Health on a monthly and weekly basis, both during pregnancy and after birth. These vaccines are not given in the camps, leading to a higher death toll amongst infants here,” said a refugee.

People in the camps say that the military has put up impediments to those wishing to bring medicines inside. Some have even lost their lives trying, they said.

“It is not easy to buy medicines for the ails that need to be treated. All routes in are controlled by the military — and that’s where the medicines are seized. Patients are dying with simple or chronic illnesses due to lack of basic treatment,” said a nurse providing care to IPDs. 

IDPs will tell you that no organizations have succeeded in providing effective health care to civilians and refugees now living on the war-torn Shan-Kayah border.

Clashes in the Moe Bye-Pekon region have now persisted for nearly nine months, having significantly intensified over the past two.

According to a March 27 report by the UN OCHA, around 228,900 people have been displaced by fighting in southeastern Burma between the February 2021 coup d’etat and March of this year. 93,800 others have been displaced in Kayah State, population under 300,000.


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