Emergency House for Refugees in Chiang Mai

May 1, 2007

In 2007, there were 150,000 camp based refugees and around 2 million other people from Burma trying to survive in Thailand. Many of those who were outside the camp system had great difficulty accessing health care, especially for serious conditions or for mental health support. This emergency house provided shelter, food, counseling and self-help activities for these vulnerable refugees.

This project offered emergency accommodation and support for vulnerable Burmese refugees aged between 0 – 60 years requiring medical care usually for a period of approximately 1 month. During this time refugees were also provided with personal development opportunities, including training in Thai language, sewing and computer, health issues, refugee rights including the refugee worker registration process, women’s rights, government policies and community activities to increase self-esteem and confidence.

The house was situated in Chiang Mai within reasonable distance from the hospital. There were two sections, one for men and one for women. At any given time, there are between 20 – 40 residents at the house, staying for a month on average.

The house provided care for people from Burma with a wide array of health conditions, of which the most common are:

  • HIV positive people
  • Pregnant women
  • Babies with birth defects
  • Children and adults with disabilities (genetic, as result of road accidents, accidents in refugee camps, land mines, accidents at work)
  • Victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse
  • People with mental health disorders
  • People with heart disease


During the year 2007-2008, 323 migrants (152 women, 171 men) were provided with assistance at hospitals in Chiang Mai, and 149 patients (52 women, 90 men) stayed at the emergency house. The patients were referred from other MAP projects as well as other projects connected to the Mae Tao Clinic. The patients took care of each other, the house, and organized activities (ex. a visit to a local park).

Three volunteer training sessions were held during this program, and 34 migrants (10 women, 24 men) assisted this project by providing: translation, counselling, spreading information, and helping with transportation. The regular trainings offered a place to learn and to discuss experiences or problems encountered during work. In addition, MAP assisted families to arrange funerals, and used the radio to inform the community of health issues.