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MSF in Thailand, 2011
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After working in Thailand for 35 years, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has reluctantly closed its final remaining project in the country.
It has proved impossible to obtain permission to offer medical attention to undocumented migrants and vulnerable people who are not entitled to basic healthcare. In September, MSF came to the conclusion that there was no choice but to close its longest-running mission, which started with the provision of assistance to Cambodian refugees fleeing the Khmer regime in 1976.
In the 1980s, MSF supported refugees from Myanmar, and since the mid-1990s, it has played a key role in providing and advocating comprehensive care and treatment for people living with HIV. Thailand was one of the first countries to introduce free antiretroviral treatment for HIV patients. In the past decade, MSF has responded mainly to emergencies and offered healthcare to Hmong refugees from Laos.
For more on MSF’s history in Thailand, see pages 18–21.
Assistance to migrants halted
Early in 2011, MSF was forced to close its programs in the central industrial zone of Samut Sakhon and in the Three Pagodas Pass, on the border with Myanmar, depriving 55,000 vulnerable people of access to healthcare. In the Three Pagodas Pass area, MSF had been operating a mobile clinic, providing basic medical services. Staff carried out 795 antenatal consultations, referring pregnant women to Ministry of Health hospitals for delivery. Some 4,200 people received general health education.
At the MSF clinic in Samut Sakhon province, where thousands of undocumented migrants live and work, staff conducted more than 1,380 medical consultations. Over 4,200 people attended health education sessions.
Mae Hong Son
In Mae Hong Son, in the north of Thailand, MSF staff trained ‘backpackers’ to work as mobile medical teams in the Myanmar-Thailand border area. In 2011, more than 48,470 medical consultations and almost 1,590 antenatal care consultations were carried out by these mobile teams. In the same period, staff assisted some 420 births and distributed more than 6,750 mosquito nets.
The monsoon season began at the end of July and caused severe flooding in northern, northeastern and central Thailand. In October, floodwaters reached the mouth of the Chao Phraya river, and inundated parts of the capital city, Bangkok. Of Thailand’s 77 provinces, 65 were declared flood disaster zones. Approximately 800 people died and 13.6 million were affected.
MSF teams supplied 66,000 people with relief items – mainly food, water and mosquito nets – and carried out more than 1,400 medical consultations in the most affected areas of Sukhothai, Phitsanulok, Phichit and Kamphaeng-Phet provinces.
At the end of 2011, MSF had 42 staff in Thailand. MSF has been working in the country since 1976.