Burma Women’s Medical Fund
The majority of our patients in 2012 were female, due in part to the effectiveness of our recently formed (BWMF). The 38 female patients who were registered under BWMF accounted for 20% of our total caseload. The treatment of these gynecological conditions is relatively simple surgery that does not require much time in hospital, or much follow-up care. Three of the main problems currently noted by our referring agencies are: ovarian cysts, uterine masses, and uterine prolapse:
- Ovarian cysts can be painful and can grow quiet large, and can in fact be cancerous;
- Uterine masses are most commonly fibroids (benign tumors) which may be associated with pain and excessive menstrual blood loss. Since anemia is common in this population anyway, due to nutritional factors and parasites, this places an additional burden on the women;
- Uterine prolapse is a distressing condition in which one’s insides feel like they are falling out. This is particularly the case with exertion, and exertion is an inescapable fact of life for many women inside Burma and living on the border. With advanced prolapse, the cervix and uterus protrude from the vagina. This is particularly distressing and readily resolved with hysterectomy.
Damage to the birth canal during labor, caused mainly during home births in Burma, is another common condition seen by the clinic. Included in this are vaginal fistulas and rectal-vaginal fistulas. Most of these are open communications between the bladder and vagina giving a steady leak of urine from the vagina, leaving the woman susceptible to chronic and severe urinary tract infection. Even more distressing is a fistula between the rectum and vagina resulting in faeces from the vagina. Both of these are related to prolonged obstructed labor and thus mostly occur in young women.
Health, human rights and the restoration of dignity
Women in Burma face ongoing human rights violations and their lack of access to healthcare is a direct violation of their right to health. This is a well-documented truth. For example, a Back Pack Health Worker Team (BPHWT) report shows a direct correlation between human rights abuses in eastern Burma, and reproductive health outcomes, and shows that these abuses are directly related to the “downstream effects of war and poverty.” The debilitating gynaecological conditions women on the Thai-Burma border suffer from are directly linked to poverty and lack of access to resources. By addressing the healthcare needs of women on the Thai-Burma border we aim to restore dignity, as well as begin to redress the impact of these numerous rights violations.