Donors need to provide direct support to ethnic people (Padoh Mahn Mahn – EHC)

Network Media Group, July 27, 2020

The Ethnic Health Committee (EHC) said that for local populations, such as in the KNU brigade no.5 area where military tension with the Tatmadaw is high, to solve challenges such as food shortages and the need of increased Covid-19 prevention activities and materials, they are in need of financial support.
As support coming through the central government to ethnic health organizations is ineffective, it is necessary that the international development aid funders support the ethnic health organizations directly.
Regarding this issue, Network Media Group (NMG) contacted and interviewed Padoh Mahn Mahn who is the general secretary of the EHC as well as the responsible person of Mutraw district’s Covid-19 Response Committee Supporting Group.

NMG – As for international support channeled directly to the government, what would you like to request those international organizations?
Padoh Mahn Mahn: Especially, I would like to request (them) to continue to focus on the cross border aid (cross-border funding) which we have been implementing since before the NCA. There is only BRC who is still supporting this cross border aid for now. But BRC is also facing a reduction on their funding now. They are the only major organization who directly supports the programs in ethnic areas.
For the other funders, it is hard for us to access their funding in reality due to the political and security limitations as well as the application process that goes through the government which takes a long time. Thus, I would like to request to the international community to continue your support for this cross-border funding, passing the Thai border or in other ethnic areas, passing the other (neighbouring) countries’ borders.

NMG – In this situation, is there any help from the government to the Ethnic Health Organizations?
Padoh Mahn Mahn: We have witnessed that from the government institutions there is some assistance given to EAOs (Ethnic Armed Organizations) such as sharing some materials directly. Also some assistance goes through international agencies to the Ethnic Health Organizations of EAOs according to (the agencies’) projects which we are then implementing. This humanitarian aid is given in accordance to their implementation guidelines. So for us we have to follow and carry out the (international agencies’) government approved projects (that include us).
Instead of this, there should be bi-lateral agreements between the MOHS and our ethnic health organisations during this interim period. Rather than simply service cooperation between us, it should be coordination, negotiation and recognition between each other. Not just recognition of health services from both sides, we also need to acknowledge the different health systems from both sides as well. Upon recognition of each other, then, we can build peace in an upcoming peace process as well as in a future federal union.
But in the current situation, the government is acting like all health matters are concerned only to them and that they are the responsible entity in our areas. They demand we carry out what the government wants us to do. If we keep going on like this, we won’t be able to push for a peace process and the Covid-19 control projects will not be effective.

NMG – Is there anything you would like to add?
Padoh Mahn Mahn – Firstly, for the MOHS to arrange for recognition of EHOs in return. There should be a bilateral relationship between us. Second, when international assistance goes directly to the MOHS, it should also go directly to EHOs. Here, I don’t only mean financial support but also technical support as well. Lastly, for direct support, giving cross-border aid as before is important and needs to be considered.