Shan State, Union of Myanmar
The Union of Myanmar
Yong Kha village, Shan State
2002 – 2004
The Thai and Myanmar governments
When the MFLF first went into Myanmar, the local people died daily of malaria, tuberculosis, and suffered from scabies, and other common diseases. Food supply was not sufficient to feed people for the whole year. Children suffered from malnutrition. In 2002, The Union of Myanmar, requested that the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, with financial support from the government of Thailand, provide livelihood alternatives to a border minority group in Myanmar which was dependent on opium cultivation.
What did we do in Myanmar?
The MFLF started the project by providing healthcare through Thai mobile medical units as the ‘quick hit’ to address their immediate needs and to earn the trust of the people. In addition, as identified by the local people as significant priorities, a 16-bed hospital and a school for 500 students were built by locally-paid workers.
More important than the constructions was the empowerment program such as the skills strengthening of local health personnel and education. As part of ensuring the community’s self-reliance in healthcare, local people were trained on-the-job as para-dentists, malaria and TB technicians to monitor the overall community health and the outbreak of disease. In terms of education, along with the buildings, we also designed a practical skills curriculum like agricultural know-how. The students spend one hour each day learning basic practical agricultural skills in the school’s vegetable plot, chicken coop, and fish pond. This fed into the school lunch program and had an additional benefit of providing the children with the skills to help their parents at home.
On the economic front, MFLF staff assisted the local community in constructing a 30-kilometer-long irrigation canal at a low cost of $2,500 as well as six weirs, without using any machines or a single drop of oil.
What did the people get?
- Health care and health infrastructure were improved. The malaria infection rate was reduced from 20% to less than 2% within three years while the mortality rate reduced to zero in less than a year through the work of the trained healthcare personnel. The spread of other communicable diseases are also brought under control.
- This pilot project is a regional learning center; the local people trained by the Project were able to expand the benefits to over 100,000 people across the Shan State.
- The canal irrigating 320 hectares allowed the local people to grow sustenance and cash crops three times a year and grow enough food to eat all year round.
- After three years, the total investment in this project amounted to $640,000 (or $106 / person / year). It generated benefits to the community in cash and in kind equivalent to $704,574 (or $117 / person / year).
The project continued until 2004, when there was a change of government in Myanmar and the new government chose to discontinue cooperation with Thailand.