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MSF in Myanmar, 2006
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Photo © Claude Mahoudeau
Under military rule since 1962, Myanmar (Burma) is largely cut-off from the outside world. Much of the population is poor and many lack access to healthcare, including numerous minority groups, who remain under continuous pressure and regular violent attacks from the junta. MSF has worked in the country since 1992, providing primary care and attempting to reach the most vulnerable in order to reduce their suffering. Particular attention is given to those with malaria, tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Gaining access to carry out independent humanitarian action has been challenging, and MSF continues to press the military authorities to gain access to people in need.
In 2005, more than 460,131 medical consultations were conducted in MSF-supported clinics in the capital of Yangon as well as Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states. In these locations, MSF conducted over 6000 consultations for those with HIV and by July 2006, had approximately 1888 patients following antiretroviral treatment (ART). Over 400,000 people were screened for malaria, with 175,000 treated. Required treatment was started by 4310 of the close to 14,000 people that were screened for TB.
Health education — mostly concerning sexually transmitted infections — is a large part of MSF’s work, and half a million people in these areas were reached in 2005. More than 40,000 medical consultations were conducted for people with sexually transmitted infections (STI) and over two million condoms were distributed.
In western Rakhine state, MSF provides basic healthcare, seeing many patients with malaria, malnutrition and HIV/AIDS, including a large proportion of Rakhine Muslims (Rohingya) who are denied citizenship and access to healthcare. In 2005, MSF tested 350,000 people for malaria and treated 150,000 with the disease. Approximately 3000 severely and moderately malnourished children were treated.
In Dawei and Myeik districts, MSF aims to improve diagnosis and treatment for malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and STIs, with specific attention to the vulnerable populations: ethnic minorities, community sex workers and migrant populations — via fixed and mobile clinics.
In Kayah state, at the border with Thailand, a place of continuing conflict between the junta’s army and ethnic groups, MSF is also assisting the population, mostly of the Karenni people, through two fixed clinics and two mobile teams. Through all these projects in southern Myanmar, MSF in 2005 treated over 100,000 patients including over 22,000 for malaria. Approximately 370 persons with HIV are following antiretroviral treatment.
Problems of access
Projects focusing mainly on malaria treatment for vulnerable ethnic minorities in Mon and Karen states were closed in March 2006, as teams could not secure adequate humanitarian space to operate its programs independently and without making unacceptable compromises to the authorities.
MSF has worked in Myanmar since 1992.