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Me Meh holds baby Soe Ma in the health clinic in the Ban Mai NaiSoi refugee camp in Northern Thailand. ©UNHCR/S.Rich

Me Meh: jungle camps exact their toll

With the support of [regular givers] like you, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is supporting refugees across the world – from South Sudan to Syria, Mali to Myanmar – we are working at all levels to make sure that children, women and men who are forced from their home because of persecution or conflict get the life-saving support they need…

Baby Soe Ma is very unwell. The little girl is clammy and pale, with a yellowish tinge to her skin. Her big eyes look around the medical clinic where she is staying, but she does not fuss or cry, just holds tightly to the finger of her mother Me Meh. Me Meh looks exhausted with worry – a worry based on the pain that she faced battling malaria.

As Me Meh fled the Burmese soldiers 11 years ago, she was worried only about the immediate threats – forced labour, rape, maybe even death.

Driven on by her fear of capture, along with her husband she walked through the dark night in the mosquito ridden jungles, focused only on trying to reach safety in Thailand. 

“When I contracted malaria it was terrible,” says Me Meh. “We knew about it and had been careful at home but we had no choice but to walk at night, when the mosquitoes are out more. It was terrible. I was so ill. I couldn’t eat and it was difficult to walk. It took a long time to get better and it still makes me ill to this day. This is why I worry about Soe Ma.”

Across the world malaria is one of the main causes of death for refugee children under the age of five and UNHCR works hard to prevent cases of malaria with the distribution of insecticide treated nets. 

Caring clinicians in the camp

“I’m not sure what is wrong,” says Me Meh. “She has had a cough that just would not go and then two days ago she got a fever. I brought her in here as I didn’t know what else to do and I’m very worried it could be something dangerous like Malaria.”

Baby Soe Ma is unwell and has spent one day in the clinic as the doctor suspects severe anaemia
Baby Soe Ma is unwell and has spent one day in the clinic as the doctor suspects severe anaemia

Nurses at the small but well-run health clinic in the Ban Mai NaiSoi refugee camp in Northern Thailand assure Me Meh that they do not suspect malaria. Instead, the doctor thinks Soe Ma is severely anemic and this has left her little body run-down and susceptible to other illnesses like colds.

After one night in the clinic and a basic course of medicine, her fever has broken and even the cough is easing. As a precaution blood samples have been taken and sent to a laboratory for analysis and Soe Ma will stay one more night and be given a course of iron medicine to improve her blood count. 

Accessing healthcare when it is needed

With the support of caring individuals like you, UNHCR works at all levels to help refugee communities across the world and that includes funding partners to deliver on the ground care like Soe Ma has accessed right through to high level lobbying to help Me Meh and Soe Ma find a permanent home.

“One of the best things in Thailand is the health care and medicine. We could not afford anything like this in Myanmar. There was no clinic by me for treatment anyway. I am pleased I can bring Soe Ma here to get her checked. This is very good. I am still worried but at least I can see they are working to make her better,” says Me Meh.

“This is not our home. A camp is not a home forever. We would go back if we could – if it was safe and I hope one day we will. But at least here our children can be educated and learn our language. They can also be healthy and being healthy is everything if we are going to fight to change our future.”