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Support continues for addiction recovery among Burmese refugee settlements

Participants in DARE addiction recovery programs participate in a healing circle.

January 29, 2023

By Christine Hills

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Led by a military government, the people of Burma have endured an ethnic and politically-based internal conflict that stretches back to when it gained independence from Britain in 1948. Conflict and violence have forced many people to flee their homes into camps. More than 160,000 refugees live in settlements along the Thailand-Burma border and 50,000 live in migrant villages. Addiction rates in Burma’s ethnic areas range from 40-85% and 40% in the refugee population. Burma is one of the world’s largest producers of opium, heroin and methamphetamines.

DARE (Drug and Alcohol Recovery Education Network) is a local organization that has worked for more than 30 years in the camps. It began as a relationship between Burmese ethnic community leaders and Pam Rogers, a Canadian addiction recovery specialist, after Rogers met a fellow activist working for the Burma Relief Centre along the border

DARE is the only organization providing community-based and culturally appropriate addiction prevention, education and treatment in five refugee camps and one migrant village. PWRDF has been in partnership with DARE since 2003, supporting this program and those who live there. Support for DARE and its innovative programs is often invited in the annual PWRDF World of Gifts campaign.

People living in the settlements are not permitted to work and education opportunities do not exist. Drugs and alcohol are cheaply and readily available. Young people are a priority for addiction prevention education.

The DARE program is staffed mainly by community members and people recovering from addiction who are trainers, educators and addiction workers. Addiction is a family and community problem, with women holding families together. If their male partner has an addiction, women often suffer increased poverty, stress and domestic violence. Treatment is an essential service to protect the future of these families and communities.

Over the next year, PWRDF will continue to fund programs along both sides of the Thai/Burmese border and in Karen State through:

  • Educating communities and families about substances use, addiction, consequences, contextual causes and recovery
from substance abuse
  • Providing trained people, resources and strategies that are appropriate to help reduce addiction
  • Building community strength by changing behaviors/attitudes to substance abuse, prevention, responsibility and gender equality.

Activities will include:

  • Three cycles, three months each, of addiction treatment for 126 clients in Umpiem Mai Camp, Nu Poe Camp and at the DARE Centre
  • Meetings with the Ministry of the Interior of Thailand and CCSDPT, the coordinating committee for 12 NGOs operating in nine temporary shelters for displaced people along the border between Thailand and Myanmar
  • On-going bimonthly monitoring by DARE core staff followed by annual evaluations in both refugee camps and Karen State.

There will be 181 direct beneficiaries, with more than 82,665 indirect beneficiaries including families and community members. Most beneficiaries are also volunteers participating in the project design and implementation and involved in their own recovery.


  • People with addictions and their families living in Umpiem Mai Camp, Nu Poe Camp and at the DARE Centre will receive support
  • Additional trained addiction workers
  • Reduced addiction rates and domestic violence. Approximately 60% of new treated addicts will recover 

  • Communities come to know and believe that recovery from addiction is possible
  • Community leaders will gain increased confidence in the DARE programs.

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