In the town of Tela, Honduras, where
HIV/AIDS prevalence has been skyrocketing among the Garifuna
people, MSF fights to provide lifesaving treatment...
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Episode: "Street Life"
Myanmar, or Burma as it is also called, is a former
British colony that has spent most of its independent years under
military governance. In 1990, roughly 30 years after General Ne
Win’s junta took control of the state, multiparty elections
were held in Myanmar. The primary opposition party, the National
League of Democracy (NLD) won, but was not acknowledged by the junta.
In spite of continued political agitation from the
NLD and occasional clashes between pro-Democracy activists and the
government, Myanmar has remained under military control for the
last 13 years. Human rights abuses have been widely documented during
this time, but as a medical humanitarian relief organization, MSF
has concentrated on the insidious threat to the Burmese people posed
by infectious disease.
Fighting a Drug-Resistant Killer in Myanmar’s
Since the late 1980s, public spending on health care
in Myanmar has declined rapidly, creating a niche for private clinics
that are far too expensive to benefit the majority of the population
and exist only in urban areas. In Myanmar’s border regions,
marginalized ethnic groups and migrant workers experience the brunt
of the lack of public health care, most frequently in the form of
tuberculosis (TB), HIV/AIDS, and the nation’s biggest cause
of mortality, malaria.
In this episode, Dr. Anne Pittet is working on an
MSF malaria intervention in the Dawei district, which borders Thailand.
Common malaria treatments such as chloroquine don’t achieve
results in the region due to growing resistance to the drug –
a rapidly growing problem in many countries. Chloroquine was created
in 1934. Research and development into new malaria drugs, however,
has been virtually nonexistent in the last twenty years because
even though malaria kills between one and two million people per
year, it does not provide a profitable market for the pharmaceutical
The most drug-resistant strains of malaria in the
world are found in the border regions of Myanmar, so MSF’s
objective in Dawei is to introduce new methods of diagnosis and
treatment that will be effective against the disease.
Since the “Street Life” episode was filmed,
MSF has switched to artemisinin-based malaria drugs throughout its
treatment programs in Myanmar. These are the most effective drugs
for resistant malaria: they act quickly, are well tolerated, and
have demonstrated no resistance to date.
In Dawei, the MSF malaria control program aims to
improve the medical management and prevention of malaria, increase
awareness of the community regarding malaria prevention, and diagnose
and treat the disease through hospitals and health centers, using
mobile clinics to reach people in isolated areas. As of July 2003,
MSF was supporting five health centers in Dawei, three public hospitals
and three mobile clinics, as well as one private hospital, treating
a total of 21,470 people.
learn more about the ongoing fight for better malaria treatment
for the world’s poor, click here.