International Activity Report 2008
MSF in Myanmar, 2008
Field Staff: 1,427
Reason for Intervention:
- Armed conflict
- Endemic/Epidemic disease
- Social violence/Healthcare exclusion
- Natural Disaster
MSF Activity Reports on Myanmar:
All articles on Myanmar »
In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis wreaked destruction throughout the Irrawaddy Delta, leaving an estimated 130,000 people missing or dead. The disaster was a devastating blow to a people who have suffered repression, neglect and low-intensity conflict for decades, leaving many living in abject poverty and without basic human rights.
Emergency relief after Cyclone Nargis
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) began its emergency intervention in the delta within 48 hours of the cyclone. During the critical period when the government restricted external aid, MSF delivered food, shelter, water, health care, and essential relief items. As access improved, MSF developed its programs to include psychosocial support.
Between May and November 2008, around 450 staff assisted a population of more than 520,000 people throughout four townships—Laputta, Ngapudaw, Phya Pon, Bogaley, comprising more than 1,100 villages—until emergency needs had been met. However, a number of MSF activities, primarily nutrition and mental health, continued in some of the remote areas which lacked adequate assistance. These programs have now finished. Meanwhile, ongoing support for reconstruction, especially livelihoods, nutrition, and water and sanitation, remains crucial throughout the Irrawaddy Delta.
Assisting Myanmar’s vulnerable
For the hundreds of thousands of people suffering from treatable infectious diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, the chronically under-resourced healthcare system provides little assistance. The government spends just 0.3 percent of its gross domestic product on health care, the lowest proportion worldwide. Official development aid to Myanmar is also one of the lowest per person worldwide.
HIV/AIDS: a preventable fate
Of an estimated 240,000 people infected with HIV, 76,000 are in urgent need of antiretroviral therapy (ART), but the vast majority is not receiving it. Most of the treatment available in Myanmar is provided by MSF. Working in the former capital of Yangon and the states of Shan, Kachin and Rakhine, and in Thanintaryi division, MSF provides comprehensive care to 16,000 HIV/AIDS patients, 11,000 of whom received ART. Preventive and educational assistance is also targeted towards high-risk groups, including sex workers, intravenous drug-users and migrant laborers. Nearing its capacity for ART provision, MSF has continued to lobby for increased assistance, calling for the government of Myanmar and the international community to scale up HIV services urgently and rapidly, especially ART provision.
From its clinics throughout Myanmar, MSF also provides care and treatment for people suffering from tuberculosis (TB), one of the most common opportunistic infections for people living with HIV/AIDS. During 2008, MSF admitted more than 2,800 patients for TB treatment, providing additional support such as food supplements and transport fees for the especially vulnerable. In the Thanintaryi division, southern Myanmar, MSF provides TB and HIV care in three townships in Dawei district. In Thayetchaung township, MSF also provides primary healthcare. From March 2008, MSF launched a program for TB in two townships of Dawei, providing health education and free diagnosis to the people, as well as treatment at the clinic.
Malaria is one of the leading causes of death in Myanmar. MSF provides malarial testing and treatment in a number of locations where the disease is endemic. In Rakhine state, for example, MSF supports 30 clinics and three mobile health teams dedicated to providing diagnosis and treatment. In 2008, MSF staff in Rakhine treated more than 200,000 people for malaria alone.
MSF has worked in Myanmar since 1992.