Teaching Paediatrics in the Nu Po Refugee Camp (Thai- Burmese border)

Teaching Paediatrics in the Nu Po Refugee Camp (Thai- Burmese border)

Key contacts

Dr Neil Anthony-Pillai – neil.anthony-pillai@nhs.net

Dr John Greenall  – johngreenall@doctors.org.uk

Dr Aaron Anthony-Pillai – aaron.anthony-pillai1@nhs.net


There are over 140,000 Karen people who have fled war in Myanmar, a war ongoing since 1949. Most of these now live in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border. There are another 400,000 people still living in the Karen State, located in Eastern Burma. They have had to endure years of fighting, torture, systematic rape and forced labour; their living conditions are harsh and there is limited access to education or healthcare.


Hope 4 The World, an NGO specialising in medical education, has partnered with the Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW) to train local people as healthcare workers (titled ‘medics’) so that they can staff the 50 medical clinics which provide healthcare to the Karen people in the mountainous Karen State in Myanmar. This medic training programme takes bright and dedicated Karen nationals, most with only one or two years of secondary education and a basic knowledge of community health, and puts them through an intensive yearlong training programme designed to equip them with the knowledge and skills to act as competent providers of healthcare to their remote communities.  This programme includes practical training in a hospital and clinic environment to consolidate their skills, providing full accommodation and board during their education. The training initially took place in Nu Po refugee camp, but at time of writing the programme has moved to Mae Sot due to security issues in Karen state.


The Project



provide specific training in paediatrics to community healthcare workers in the Karen State


the effectiveness of the training was measured by testing them on a pre-determined set of practical skills and a theory test


established that the goal was attainable by performing detailed planning which included reviewing sessions carried out by other trainers


the training was designed largely based on the Burmese Border Guidelines (BBG) ensuring it was relevant to the local community


the entire training had to delivered in a strict time frame of a week as this was part of an yearlong training programme where each topic was allocated a specific length of time

We contacted the  ‘Hope 4 the World’ charity to indicate our interest in delivering the paediatric element of the training in their established training programme. We received information on where to go, what to expect and what to teach during our week. We booked and funded our own flights and accommodation, guided by the charity.


We made a lesson plan to cover all the topics required which included visits to the hospital and clinics inside the refugee camp. During the training we were provided accommodation within the refugee camp.



The day started with worship led by participants. We were assisted by a Karen trainer who performed the translation. Our week of Paediatric teaching included a wide range topics from recognising an acutely ill child to managing nutrition and treating malnutrition. We adjusted and used some creativity to facilitate efficient learning in these challenging circumstances; our teaching skills have improved a great deal. We had practical sessions both in the classroom as well as the hospital based inside the refugee camp.


At the end of the week the students were tested on what they had learnt. And they all performed really well averaging over 75%. The amount of knowledge and rate at which students assimilate it, translated from a language they may not understand, is remarkable. Their commitment is astonishing.They had left their families for at least one year. They stay in shared accommodation within the refugee camp. They work diligently into the night, reading and preparing for the next day. Despite the long hard hours, students remained enthusiastic and supportive of each other. We witnessed a level of dedication that is unparalleled, and will stay with us forever.