By Janeen Sawatzky, OBA Member
Worcester College, Oxford
Originally published 27 April 2012 by The Oxford Student (reprinted with permission)

It is easy to believe that Burma’s battle for democracy may soon be over. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s historic trip in late 2011 and David Cameron’s call for the suspension of economic sanctions this week while visiting Burma are clear indications that the international community is taking notice of the incredible progress unfolding in the Southeast Asian nation.

That this once pariah state, condemned for its egregious human rights abuses and violent suppression of pro-democracy activists, may finally see over 50 years of western isolation come to an end is nothing short of astonishing. What is more astonishing, however, is the rapid pace at which the nominally civilian government is enacting political reforms.

_By Katie Myint, OBA Member
Jesus College, Oxford
23 April 2012

I'm a third year studying medicine at Jesus College. During the Easter vacation, I travelled to Burma for experience at the Jivitadana Sangha Hospital in the former capital, Yangon (formerly Rangoon), in order to learn about healthcare in a developing country.            

The humanitarian crisis in Burma has been described by the Human Rights Watch as one of the worst in the world. Over a third of Burmese people live on less than $1 a day, and this is reflected in the major causes of death: tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition; most of these are diseases of poverty, and preventable. Unfortunately healthcare provision in Burma is poor, with a lack of equipment and medicine which is directly attributable to the shockingly low government expenditure on health in Burma.

The Burmese government spends approximately $23 per person on health each year, a measly sum in comparison to $345 per person in neighbouring Thailand, and $3399 per person in the United Kingdom (WHO, 2009). The quality of healthcare in Burma is so poor that Burmese government officials are known to travel to Thailand and Singapore to receive better care. Sadly, this is simply not an option for most ordinary Burmese people, who cannot afford the expense.


Oxford Burma Alliance