Mae Tao Clinic: closing a gap in refugee health and wellbeing

Sep 30, 2020

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA are working with the Mae Tao Clinic to improve access and quality of health services for the large population displaced by war and poverty living on either side of the Thai-Burma border.

Mae Tao Clinic: ongoing instability compounded by COVID-19

Each year, the Mae Tao Clinic provides maternal and child health, chronic and infectious disease management, and trauma care for many thousands of refugees and migrant workers who live along the Thai-Myanmar border. Without the Mae Tao Clinic, patients would otherwise go without treatment or risk catastrophic debt[1] to pay for it. Located on the Thai side of the Thai-Myanmar border, the Mae Tao Clinic was established in 1989 by Dr Cynthia Maung to provide health care for the large numbers of people seeking refuge from conflict and poverty in Myanmar.

With ongoing instability in Myanmar, and compounded by the complications of COVID-19, the clinic remains a life line for the estimated 93,000[2] , mostly Karen, refugees living in Thailand along the border  today. With almost 100,000 medical consultations, each year the Clinic assists with over 7,000 general hospital admissions, about 1,500 births, cares for over 400 babies with severe malnutrition and prevents ongoing transmission of tuberculosis and HIV through early detection and facilitation of access to treatment for just over 5,000 patients.


Training health workers and strengthening health systems along the Thai-Myanmar border

An important role of the Clinic over this time has been to train health care workers from ethnic health organisations in Eastern Myanmar. In collaboration with other health organisations and agencies, the Clinic provides a range of certificate-level professional development courses, including reproductive health, dental care, communicable diseases, and public health.

In the past year, with support from Union Aid Abroad APHEDA, 24 eligible trainees complete a four-month Medic Internship that skills them to perform clinical management at health facilities in both Thailand and Myanmar. The benefits from the training are amplified through:

  • the development of a curriculum for community health care worker training, which will support future trainings;
  • the small number of trainees that remain working with the busy Mae Tao Clinic will further their training and their careers, while supporting refugee, migrant and displaced communities for years to come;
  • the larger number of trainees that return to their homes after graduation will deliver desperately needed primary health care in their local communities in Eastern Myanmar.



Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA and the Mae Tao Clinic will continue to strengthen primary health care into the future with continued support for health care workers from diverse ethnic backgrounds, who in turn, deliver desperately needed health services to their own communities and internally displaced communities inside Myanmar as well as at the Mae Tao Clinic and for the large number of refugees, migrants and displaced people who cross the border each year escaping poverty and war.



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The Global Justice Organisation of the Australian Union Movement

The work of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA relies on the efforts of thousands of Australian unionists and internationalists who raise funds, volunteer, and take action to build solidarity across borders. 

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