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Glob Public Health. 2008;3(2):165-86. doi: 10.1080/17441690801942821.

Multi-level partnerships to promote health services among internally displaced in eastern Burma.

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Backpack Health Worker Team, Tak, Mae Sot, Thailand.


Ethnic populations in eastern Burma are the target of military policies that result in forced labour, destruction of food supplies, and massive forced displacement. Despite international assistance to Burmese refugees along the Thai-Burma border, traditional humanitarian models have failed to reach these internally displaced persons (IDPs) within Burma. Nevertheless, through the cultivation of a model (cross border local-global partnerships) 300,000 IDPs in eastern Burma now receive critical health services where, otherwise, there would be none. We describe key elements of the partnership model's genesis in eastern Burma. The role of the local partner, Backpack Health Worker Team (BPHWT), is highlighted for its indigenous access to the IDP populations and its maintenance of programmatic autonomy. These local elements are potentiated by international support for technical assistance, training, resources, and advocacy. International policy and investment should prioritize support of locally-driven health initiatives that utilize local-global partnerships to reach not only IDPs but also other war-torn or traditionally inaccessible populations worldwide.

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