17 years of humanitarian aid missions in the war of Burma
The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) began humanitarian aid missions into the war-torn country of Burma in 1997. The squad risks their lives taking in food, medical supplies, and educational supplies to more than one million internally displaced people (IDPs), who have been forced to flee their villages leaving them shelter-less and stuck scavenging for food while hiding in the jungle. Many of these once self-sustaining agriculturalists now rely on the support of the Rangers for their survival. The Burmese army randomly assaults villages in isolated areas where various ethnic groups live. The communities re-build temporary sites when possible but always live with the dread of another attack.
The FBR team was made up of 4 militaries from the Karen and Karenni ethnic groups who wanted to make a transformation and saw a need to help their nations who struggle to live on a daily basis. In the beginning, supplies lined the basement of a safe house in Thailand and the entire operation was run by 5 people out of that space. They now have a broad network of volunteers based both in Thailand and abroad working 365 days a year to further their origin. The team has grown into over 100 with almost 50 full time FBR squads now active throughout Burma. They have treated over 350,000 patients and aided more than 750,000 people.
Since its inception, the team has expanded by conducting yearly intensive training sessions allowing multiple teams to provide aid, reaching different areas simultaneously. Numerous skills are trained during the training program comprising leadership, human rights abuse documentation, compass navigation, water and ropes courses, and ways to strengthen ethnic unity. FBR goes on foot, crossing rivers and mountain ranges, which demands great physical and mental strength. All supplies and medical aid must be carried in on their backs sometimes walking 15 hours a day to stay ahead of the Burmese Army and reach the innocent victims of the war.
Furthermore, the rangers are fortified to perform extensive operations when needed as many land mine victims they encounter require limb amputations. Additional minor surgeries including tooth removals are also performed, often with little or no anesthesia. When a team reaches a specific location, they are instructed by locals as to the risk level of any Burmese army in the area. They then instantly set up a mobile clinic and word rapidly spreads that aid has arrived. Individuals with several medical conditions line up calmly and those most critical are always priority. Throughout each operation, which lasts between 1 and 2 months, more than 1000 patients are treated and thousands more are aided in many ways.
FBR is in continuous contact with government leaders around the world and give reports and updates about the situation inside the country. This inspiring group receives generous donations from foreign individuals touched by their amazing courage and contribution to the people of Burma.