Burma 1998

HEALTH SERVICE FAILS ETHNIC MINORITIES Although US and other Western countries continue to impose sanctions against the repressive military-led government in an effort to persuade it to free elections, Myanmar was granted ASEAN membership in November 1997. Two new townships (pop. 250,000) have been formed in the Yangon (Rangoon) area. These are intended for people who have been forcibly displaced and relocated in an attempt to isolate insurgents from their population base. MSF is providing mother-and-child clinics and feeding centres in an attempt to decrease mortality in this group. The team is also ensuring supplies of essential drugs, as well as clean water and sanitation. AIDS, a fast-growing problem in Myanmar, is being countered here and in Rakhine and Kachin states by activities including education programmes, STD screening, therapy and promotion of the use of condoms. Two other programmes underway in parts of Rakhine and Kachin states focus on controlling malaria through diagnosis, treatment and education with a particular focus on pregnant women and under-fives. Another two programmes beginning in other parts of Rakhine are intended to decrease morbidity and mortality among the most disadvantaged and to strengthen their coping mechanisms for the future. In order to meet these objectives, MSF is setting up village health systems that should reduce the incidence of communicable diseases and malnutrition rates, increase immunisation coverage and improve antenatal care and contraceptive advice.