In northwestern Myanmar’s mountainous Chin State, Lu Lein, a widow in her late 50s, often finds breathing difficult, her heart palpitations are worrying, and even small efforts can be exhausting, but she has no idea what these symptoms mean. She lives in a village an hour by motorbike over rocky hills from Kanpetlet, the nearest township. “The only thing I can do is take rest when I feel like that. I can’t afford to get treatment in the town,” she said. People in her village of some 130 people said a health worker comes once every three months, but only to immunize children, not to treat illness.
Primary healthcare is still out of reach for most people in Chin State, one of the most remote, isolated parts of the country, where threequarters of the people, who mostly depend on small-scale farming to survive, hover below the poverty line, said aid workers.
Poor transport and the state’s rough terrain mean rural residents often have to walk for days to reach medical care in the nearest town. Some arrive close to death while others do not survive the journey. “As healthcare is not easily available, many people rely on the traditional remedies for seasonal [monsoon] sicknesses,” said Myo Min Zaw, assistant surgeon at the state-run hospital in Kanpetlet. “Only when they are seriously ill do they come to the hospital.”
Respiratory infections, malaria and diarrhoea are the most common childhood illnesses in the state, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). more…