In 2002, HealthRight launched the Partnership for Migrant Health, based in Mae Sot, Thailand. The project served Burmese migrant women, children, and adolescents who fled the military government of Burma (now Myanmar) and were living without legal registration on the Thai side of the border. They suffered abuses both in Burma and in Thailand, including police harassment, press-gang work for the army, torture, rape, and forced displacement.
The principal source of health care for these migrants was the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand, founded in 1989 by Dr. Cynthia Maung, herself a migrant. Although the clinic had grown since its founding, the status of the population it served had become more precarious. Migrants were often detained or arrested by the Thai police, or deported back to Burma. They were trafficked into factory jobs where they live in miserable conditions, often not paid. There was no formal education or schooling, no reliable health care outside the clinic, and a looming fear of hospitalization for which they could not pay if they became seriously ill.
Increasing access to adolescent reproductive health (ARH) services is fundamental to the realization of reproductive rights for vulnerable populations. However, it is a special challenge within displaced populations who face limited access to health care. Displaced adolescents are at heightened risk for reproductive health problems and HIV/AIDS due to conditions associated with their displacement and mobility, including increased sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), breakdown of cultural norms and family structure, economic insecurity or dependence, and lack of legal status.
Through this work on the Thai-Burma border, HealthRight developed the capacity of local partners to conduct ARH and HIV/AIDS programs, and the Partnership for Migrant Health focused on ARH since its inception. The project’s goal was to provide adolescent reproductive health services, including HIV/AIDS counseling, within reproductive health for refugees programs.
The final project activities were completed in early 2004, including facilitating the participation of local partners in the Bangkok AIDS Conference.