New Delhi (Mizzima) – A massive dengue outbreak is spreading through Mae La refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border, and 500 refugees are receiving treatment for the mosquito-borne fever, according to staff at the camp yesterday.
The camp that is home to almost 40,000 refugees in Thailand’s Tak province is 35 miles (57 kilometres) from Mae Sot, the main gateway between the countries on the Moei River opposite Burma’s Myawaddy Township. Most of its residents are Karen.
“Last year, just about 15 people per month suffered dengue fever but prevention was not carried out systematically, so it has not been eradicated,” camp hospital manager Saw Nay San told Mizzima. “Early this year, the number of dengue cases increased and about 500 people are suffering from the fever.”
Two children and three adults at the camp had died from the fever this year. But, prevention systems remained ineffective, Saw Nay San said.
“We don’t have enough nurses, money or medicine. We don’t have enough mosquito repellent. During the monsoon, the mosquito population increases so every home needs to use mosquito-repellent spray. Bushes need to be pruned and we need to eliminate areas of standing water in the camp,” Saw Nay San added.
“I think the patients will recover after they have received medical treatment for about a week”, the hospital chief said.
Moreover, cholera, passed to humans through contaminated drinking water or food, had also been spreading through the camp from late May, and 302 residents had received treatment, a camp health department volunteer told Mizzima.
“Many people are suffering from the disease so we’ve got a heavy workload that is beyond our capacity,” the volunteer said.
The water system was unable to provide adequate supply for the recently increased number of refugees, so they have had to depend on their own wells for drinking water, which could be contaminated as toilets were infested with flies, the volunteer said.
“People are experiencing very low standards of living and also have difficulties in accessing clean foods … which is while the cholera is spreading,” the volunteer said.
According to the spokesman from the camp’s clinic, most of the patients suffering dengue fever or cholera were between 1 and 60 years old.
The camp is divided into zones A, B and C and there are five quarters in each. Most of the houses are thatched cottages. Mae La is the biggest refugee camp among the 10 camps managed by the NGO alliance called the Thailand Burma Border Consortium along the border. The other refugee camps are Tham Hin, Ba Don Yang, Nu Po, Umpiem Mai, Mae La Oon, Mae Ra Ma Luang, Ban Mae Surin, Ban Mai Nai Soi and Wieng Hang.
In Mae La camp, most of the refugees are Karen, who had since 1984 fled Burmese Army offensives, destruction of their villages, forced displacement and forced labour.
Around 4,000 Karen villagers escaped to Thailand in June last year when the regime stepped up its campaign against the Karen rebels.
The Karen National Union, the country’s biggest rebel group, has been fighting for independence in the hills of eastern Burma for the past 60 years in one of the world’s longest running insurgencies.