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Led by Mr. Caspar Peek, the United Nations Population Fund Representative for Thailand, UNFPA recently visited the temporary shelters in the northern province of Thailand to assess sexual and reproductive health situation of refugees along Thailand-Myanmar border.

Mr. Peek, Ms. Napapan Der Kinderen, National Programme Officer, and Mr. Wanpiya Techo, Programme Assistant, recently visited Mae La Ma Luang and Mae La Oon temporary shelters in Sob Moei District, Mae Hong Son Province, where UNFPA Thailand Office has participated in the project to promote the sexual reproductive health and well-being in the camp.


The two shelter camps are among nine refugee camps in Thailand. Mae La Oon and Mae La Ma Luang temporary shelters have approximately 13,034 and 14,700 refugees respectively. UNFPA has worked through various agencies such as Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Public Health, NGOs, community-based organizations, community leaders and volunteers, among others, to improve the sexual and reproductive health of people in the camps.

For instance, UNFPA has been working with the implementation partners such as the Planned Parenthood Association of Thailand (PPAT).  PPAT staff members, including 17 Refugee Assistant Nurses and six Peer Educators, provide service to the refugees in seven clinics in the two camps.

In spite of the reproductive health of family planning services provided in the camp, some of the refugees still have health issues such as irregular menstruation and almost 5,000 cases of abnormal vaginal discharge partly due to unpleasant living condition in the camp where the refugees live in cramped quarters, lack of knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and hygiene.

During the visit, the UNFPA team from Thailand conducted focused group discussion and interview to collect the information. For instance, the team met a Karen couple who have been married for 10 years.  The husband came to PPAT's main clinic in Mae Ra Ma Luang together with their one-year-old baby girl for counseling service on family planning. The couple have four children, aged nine, six, four and one respectively, even though the wife wanted to have only three children. The forth pregnancy was unintended. The husband did not use the condom because, "It is not natural."  Like many other Karen husbands, he added, "I do not want to get vasectomy either. I think I will become weaker and cannot do hard work after getting It"


As it is the case in other Myanmar refugee camps in Thailand, engaging men particularly husbands into family planning in Mae Ra Ma Luang Camp has faced similar challenges.  Most of the times, the initiative comes from women.  In this case, the wife visited PPATs clinic regularly as she has been trying different contraceptive methods. However, she has been suffering from side effects from using numerous types of contraceptive commodities.   The Karen wife whose name is withheld said, "I cannot take Oral Contraceptive Pills, Injectable Contraceptives, Implant and IUD as I felt really sick, I got dizzy and vomit." The couple decided to do natural birth control last year but it did not work. They got their fourth child.  She added, "Now, we do not really know about our future in refugee camp, we want to do family planning because we cannot afford to raise more children." Therefore, the couple visited PPAT's clinic for counseling prior having female sterilization services. 

During the UNFPA discussion with PPAT, it is also found that many of the refugees would like to receive more training to help the communities.  UNFPA also exchanged views with refugees about their living conditions and their desirable future.

Since 2012, UNFPA Thailand's Project on Enhancing Integrated Reproductive Health and gender-based violence (GBV) Services for Refugees Living along the Thai-Myanmar Border has supported and worked closely with PPAT in ensuring that Myanmar refugees of reproductive ages especially women access to quality family planning services.  

Choices in selecting contraceptive methods and choices for having children in their families have made by both men and women, but not by chance.  In 2012, a total of 18,478 refugees of reproductive age, mainly refugee women directly benefited from reproductive health (RH) programming provided by UNFPA in collaboration with PPAT in three camps namely Mae La Ma Luang, Mae La Oon in Mae Hong Son and Mae La Camp in Tak province. 

These RH services include 10,523 refugees who received Family Planning services, 5,329 refugees, RH and other related health services, 28 refugees, referral services, and 2,598 refugees who received counseling services on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues. 

In 2013, UNFPA Thailand has intensified our SRH programme into five refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, including Mae La Ma Luang camp, Mae La Oon camp and Ban Mai Nai Soi camp in Mae Hong Son Province as well as Mae La camp and Umpium Mai camp in Tak Province.