Myanmar - 2008 country overview

Text from the proposed International Activity Report, 2008
Myanmar received international media attention in 2007 following protests initially sparked by a rise in fuel prices. This continuing and under-reported story, however, is one of widespread and hidden suffering. Controlled by a military regime since 1962 and largely cut off from the outside world, the health and welfare of people in Myanmar is affected by repression and low intensity conflict. Ethnic minorities, many of whom are displaced and live in border regions, are particularly vulnerable. Provisions for healthcare are inadequate, with 80 percent of people living in malaria risk areas and thousands going without treatment for conditions such as tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS. In 2007, MSF continued its medical aid projects in areas where it had secured humanitarian access: Rakhine, Kachin, Shan and Kayah states, as well as Yangon and Thanintharyi divisions. In Rakhine state, MSF provides basic healthcare with a focus on malaria, TB and sexually transmitted infections. Almost half a million patients were tested for malaria and 210,000 were treated. In Yangon, Kachin and Shan, MSF provided medical care for 16,000 HIV/AIDS patients, half of whom were receiving anti-retroviral treatment by the end of the year. Focusing on high risk groups including sex workers, intravenous drug users and migrant workers, MSF also provided health education, distributed over 3.5 million condoms and provided needle exchanges. In Thanintary division, southern Myanmar, MSF runs a project aimed at controlling and treating malaria. The goal was to ensure adequate infrastructure for the screening and treatment of malaria. There are now seven fixed structures integrated into public clinics, a private structure and several mobile clinics. In Dawei, Thanintharyi division, MSF has developed a more integrated approach to the treatment of TB, malaria and sexually transmitted infections including HIV, illnesses previously addressed through separate projects. Care is provided through two fixed clinics and an additional health centre focusing specifically on HIV/AIDS and TB. In total, 914 patients were receiving HIV/AIDS treatment and 586 people were treated for TB. In Myeik, south of Dawei, MSF has run a malarial control and treatment project since 2002, including surveillance and emergency response for epidemic diseases. Four mobile clinics provide care in three townships of Thanintharyi. At the end of 2007, the project was handed over to another international non-governmental organisation (NGO). In Kayah state, a pocket of ongoing civil strife previously off-limits to international aid, MSF provides primary healthcare and TB treatment for people trapped in poverty, low-level conflict and inadequate healthcare. A total of 22,350 consultations were provided through three clinics in the north of the state, one in the south and a new clinic that opened in mid-2007 to care for those living in the eastern part of Kayah. During the year, MSF advocated for its patients nationally and internationally, raising awareness of the situation faced by Rakhine Muslims, Kayan and Karen minorities, as well as the vulnerability of HIV/AIDS patients in Myanmar. One of few international NGOs in the country, MSF has urged and helped other actors to become more engaged with the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. MSF has worked in Myanmar since 1992. There are 38 international and 1,200 national employees