In Burma under the current military regime, death is an ever present possibility for the ethnic nationalities in contested areas. Death by starvation, forced labor, rape, malaria, infections, landmines…the possibilities are wide ranging. Yet each morning, people get up, educate their children, find food, care for one another, and look forward to a day when life is not so hard; a day when they are free. They plant crops when they can, get married, have children, practice their beliefs and traditions…all things that look forward and plan for a life, even though life has no guarantee. If they are forced out of one area, they move to another area and start over. Defying the Burma Army by refusing to move to a relocation site or flee to Thailand is a tremendous act of courage and passive restistance based in the dignity of the human spirit and their desire to stay in their land.
The relief teams we support, and the internally displaced people they serve, face choices between despair and hope each day. A report published in 2006 defines the health needs of the people as a state of “Chronic Emergency.” Yet representatives of the various ethnic groups plan for the future and train medics and public health workers who will go out into the villages to treat illnesses and help educate their people on how to improve their level of health. They use the skills they have and all those they can learn to expand their effectiveness in serving their people and helping build capacity for the future.