Eh Dah Zu, a petite, 24-year-old woman, peeled back layers of white plastic and cloth wrapped around a sugarcane stalk – a prop simulating bone, muscle and skin – before cutting it with a thin cable saw to simulate an amputation.

The exercise, part of a trauma skills workshop in eastern Burma, was a stark reminder that there are no doctors or hospitals in this war-ravaged sliver of mountainous jungle near Thailand, where ethnic minorities have resisted the Burmese army for 60 years. The country’s military junta provides little health care, or access to international humanitarian groups for an estimated 500,000 displaced villagers, many of whom suffer from rampant malaria, malnutrition and one of the world’s highest rates of land-mine injuries.

In response, Burmese refugees in Thailand developed a unique program, effectively sneaking health care into their own country: A network of tiny mobile clinics now dot eastern Burma, where medics like Eh Dah Zu carry medical supplies in backpacks, walk for weeks through remote jungles and risk capture and injury to reach patients.

San Francisco Chronicle