Dr. Cynthia Maung Wins UNDP’s N-Peace Award

By Zarni Mann 28 November 2018

MANDALAY—Dr. Cynthia Maung, who for decades has been the guiding light of the Mae Tao Clinic just across the Thai border from Myawaddy in Karen State, is among the recipients of this year’s N-Peace Awards, bestowed by the United Nations Development Program Asia-Pacific to honor those working to build peace and empower women in conflict zones.

In a statement issued Nov. 24, the UNDP said the award was given in recognition of Dr. Cynthia Maung’s work providing emergency maternal healthcare in a conflict area in which women lack access to healthcare services.

Dr. Cynthia Maung has run the Mae Tao Clinic on the outskirts of Mae Sot in Thailand’s Tak province since shortly after the pro-democracy uprising in Myanmar in 1988. The clinic provides health care to migrant workers and ethnic minority people displaced by conflict in Myanmar, especially in Karen State and nearby regions.

“Cynthia Maung is praised for her work developing a system of providing emergency maternal healthcare in vulnerable and/or conflict situations. With women particularly affected by a lack of access to healthcare services, her important work has made an incredible impact on hundreds of thousands of people,” the statement reads.

Dr. Cynthia Maung was one of 56 nominees for this year’s awards from numerous countries in the region including Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

An online voting process resulted in the selection of 10 N-Peace Award winners. The nine other winners include activists from Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. All the recipients work in peace-building or efforts to end violence against women and children.

The N-Peace Awards were established in 2010 to strengthen the role of women in peace-building and conflict resolution, especially in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

“This year’s winners are notable for their determined efforts to change the landscape of inequitable gender relations during and post conflict, particularly when it comes to sexual violence, and access to justice, services, and information,” Valerie Cliff, UNDP’s deputy regional director for Asia-Pacific and director of the Bangkok Regional Hub, was quoted as saying in the statement released on Saturday.

From humble beginnings, Dr. Cynthia Maung’s clinic has expended significantly and currently provides free healthcare to hundreds of patients every day, with the help of about 700 staff, including about 200 volunteers. Most of her patients are landmine victims from ethnic communities, people living with HIV, and pregnant women or mothers in need of emergency maternal healthcare.

The clinic treats an average of 420 patients per day and more than 110,000 people annually—10 percent of them inpatients. It delivers more than 2,500 babies a year, according to the clinic’s website.

Although it receives some support from international governments and foundations, the bulk of the clinic’s funding comes from individual donors and non-governmental organizations. In recent years, the clinic has had trouble raising the funds it needs, however.

Dr. Cynthia Maung’s humanitarian work has drawn comparisons with Mother Teresa, and she has been honored with dozens of humanitarian awards including the 2002 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the 2008 Catalonia International Prize (along with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi), the 2013 Sydney Peace Prize and the Roux Award in September this year.