June 12th, 2020
Spotlight On: Health and Hope, Chin State
Located in the remote mountains of north west Burma, Chin State is home to over 500,000 ethnic Chin. While the term ‘Chin’ generally refers to one of the many Burmese ethnic groups, the Chin are ethnically and linguistically diverse. There are at least six primary Chin tribal groups which are currently identified and these can be split into 63 sub-groups who speak over 20 languages.
For years, Chin societies existed freely and unbothered and governed themselves without interference. Historically, the Chin people inhabited areas of Burma, Bangladesh and the Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur until British occupation in the 18th century condensed the expanded Chin population into designated areas.
Once Burmese independence was internationally ratified in 1948, the division of the Chin people was formalised to the eastern Chin Hills with many historically Chin people incorporated into newly independent India.
So began over 70 years of political and social turmoil for the Burmese people which has included democratic uprisings, oppressive military rule, ethnic cleansing and subjugation, government mandated violence, repeated displacement of peoples and humanitarian disasters.
Chin State has by no means been immune to the plights of the turbulence of Burma’s short independent history. Armed insurgency groups have been operating in the Chin area since 1948 and played a key role in the 8/8/88 uprisings which called for democratic change in Burma but were met with fierce government violence.
Since 1948, Chin State has suffered in-fighting and government mandated violence, all of which has had devastating consequences for the Chin people. As recently as 15th of March, nine were killed and 12 wounded in Chin State by Burmese Army bombs. According to a report by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) recent clashes have led to the displacement of over 61,000 persons in Arakan State and Chin State since 16th March 2020.
Health and Hope
Against the background of the social turbulence and violence Chin State has endured, our tireless partner, Dr Taing Saing San, or ‘Dr SaSa,’ as he is generally known, has been dedicated to bringing modern healthcare and medical education to Chin State. His and the remarkable story of Health and Hope began with villagers donating everything from chickens to cows to send Dr SaSa across the world for medical training.
HART has been supporting Dr SaSa since 2005 and his Health and Hope project since 2009. At the heart of the Health and Hope project has been sustainable, community education. The project trains Community Health Workers (CHWs) from villages across Chin State and beyond. Villages send one man and one woman to Health and Hope’s residential centre who the receive comprehensive training before returning to their villages where they can administer preventative and immediate medical care and provide health education to others. CHWs form Village Health Committees (VHCs) to support the implementation of basic healthcare practices and supply vitamins to children and pregnant or lactating mothers.
Recent analysis of the project estimated that CHWs save the lives of around 8 out of 10 people who would previously have died. During our last visit to Health and Hope in 2019 it was confirmed that there were now over 1,000 trained CHWs who are providing this life saving care across Chin and Rakhine states.
To find out more about Dr SaSa and Health and Hope click here https://www.hart-uk.org/health-and-hope/
To discover more about HART’s work in Burma follow this link https://www.hart-uk.org/locations/burma/
If you wish to support HART and our continued work in Burma then click here to donate https://www.hart-uk.org/donate/
By Max Elgot
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