Karen State, Burma (Myanmar) has been an area of heavy conflict for over 70 years.  When most people look at areas of conflicts, they look at combat deaths, injuries or other trauma-related issues. However, the more serious issues are ancillary to combat—because of a war or other type of civil unrest, you have a severe lack of primary and preventative healthcare. From there, you have a myriad of medical issues that could have otherwise been easily treatable or even preventable in the first place.

Dr. Jack Chamberlain has been working in Burma for 15 years now, instrumentally involved in building a system of healthcare along with the Karen people, as they have survived seven decades of war and finally found themselves in a cease-fire. The difficulties of accessing reliable (or any) healthcare have made it so the child mortality rate is three times higher than the rest of the country, and the maternity mortality ratio (number of women dying in childbirth) is “more than 50 times than the U.S.”

According the World Health Organization (WHO), pneumonia “accounts for 16% of all deaths of children under five years old.” In 2015, pneumonia alone killed 920,136 children across the globe, and this remains a serious problem in rural areas of Burma as well. But Dr. Chamberlain says that “most of those cases are easily treated with antibiotics, they just need the access and someone who knows what they’re doing to provide it.”

However, just relying on foreign aid workers is putting a bandage on a problem that needs a more permanent fix. They need infrastructure, training and funding. Dr. Chamberlain, along with local healthcare leaders, have started a new program that aims to do just that: the first of its kind, called the Earth Mission Asia Physician Assistant Training Program (EMA PA Training Program). It is a five-year program focused on developing Karen healthcare professionals and building a system that will hopefully last long beyond Dr. Chamberlain and any of his current staff.