- About Us
- Our Work
- Work With MSF
- Public Events
- Press Room
MSF in Myanmar, 2009
Field Staff: 1,189
Reason for Intervention:
All articles on Myanmar »
A health crisis, exacerbated by devastating diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) has developed in Myanmar. The government spends just 0.3 per cent of its GDP on healthcare, the lowest percentage worldwide, and international aid to the country remains completely inadequate at just $3 per person per year.
MSF has been working to provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) to people with HIV/AIDS and to treat those with TB and malaria.
Malaria is one of the biggest killers in Myanmar because there is so little access to effective and affordable diagnostic tools and drugs. In 2009, MSF treated approximately 160,000 people who had malaria in Rakhine State.
Prevalence of TB is also high: the latest government figures report 134,000 known cases. Because the national TB program is underfunded, there are sometimes interruptions in the supply of medicines. This increases drug-resistance in patients whose treatment is in turn interrupted, and therefore reduces the effectiveness of the drugs. MSF continued to treat patients co-infected with HIV and TB throughout the year, and in July initiated the country’s first multi-drug-resistant TB program in Yangon in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.
HIV/AIDS kills thousands of people every year in Myanmar because so little antiretroviral therapy (ART) is available. As many as 76,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS, yet only 20,000 people receive treatment, mostly from MSF. In Shan, Kachin and Rakhine states and in Yangon, the country’s largest city, MSF runs 17 HIV/AIDS clinics, nine health centers and more than 30 malaria field posts. MSF also provides TB and HIV/AIDS treatment and general healthcare programs in both the rural and urban parts of the Dawei and Myiek districts in the south of the country. The programs offer help to 700,000 people and target particularly more vulnerable people such as migrant workers and fishermen in the area. Last year, MSF supplied more than 14,300 people with ART.
Throughout 2009, MSF continued to lobby strongly for an increased response from the government and the international community to address the HIV/AIDS crisis. The MSF mental health program that assisted victims of the 2008 cyclone ‘Nargis’ closed in May, as emergency needs diminished. Between January and May 2009, 17,000 people received counseling.
Tin, a 29-year-old mother living in Dawei, is HIV-positive and has TB.
It took Tin Mya a month to find diagnosis and treatment for TB. After visiting two private clinics, she went to a MSF clinic and received free TB care.
‘I was feeling very tired and couldn’t work,’ she said. ‘My mother is taking care of me now and MSF’s counselor visits me regularly. I need to go to the clinic once a month and if I can’t pay for the transport, MSF gives me money. MSF also supports me with food such as rice, beans, salt and oil. It helps a lot and I have gained some weight and I do feel better. They explained about TB with a chart and told me it’s very important to take my treatment until the end. When I got to the MSF clinic, they screened all the family members for HIV and TB. It turned out that my four-year-old daughter also has TB, and is also HIV-positive. She has been taking TB treatment for two months now.’
MSF has worked in Myanmar since 1992.