Akha People

The Akha People (also referred to as Hani/Akha People), are an estimated 2.5 million persons living in Yunnan province in Southwest China, the northern parts of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, and eastern Burma. They live in a central part of what is currently called the ‘Mekong Quadrangle’, an area of about 500 by 600 km or 30,000 sq. km, somewhat the size of the European Alps. The Akhas are concentrated in an area that is crossed by several major rivers: the Mekong, the Red and Black Rivers, and the Salween, and their many tributaries which cut steep valleys.

Of crucial contemporary significance, this border area covers part of the territory of five modern nation-states. The total population of this region, including quickly growing industrial centres, is about 15-20 million. The Akha live mostly in the mountains interspersed with other ethnic groups, but are concentrated in certain areas. “Akha,” according to some, means “In Between (high upland and lowland) People”. There are now approximately  80,000 Akha living in the mountains of Thailand.  This does not include the high number of non-registered Akha and perhaps those living in the cities.

Most Akha still live in remote villages today. Many are born in these remote villages and don’t have documentation proving they were born in Thailand. This leaves them ineligible for public health care and education. They struggle to survive under challenging conditions and meager opportunity.

A People in Danger… A Reason for Hope

The Akha People are rich in culture, history, knowledge, and tradition. But they are also among the world’s most impoverished. Tragically, many Akha children die from lack of medical care and from malnutrition. The medium life expectancy of the Akha people is between 71 and 77 years old.

Akha women remain remarkably resilient in the face of a harsh life and unsure future. It is primarily the women who work the fields and provide sustenance for the family. Additionally, the women maintain a treasure of Akha culture: traditional herbal medicine and healing massage techniques. Among the younger Akha women, these traditions are being lost.

The Akha Women’s Foundation provides opportunities for the Akha women so they can receive training and education, provide for their families, and share their culture. Contact AWF to learn how you can be a part of this is worthwhile cause and enjoy the treasure of the Akha people.