Myanmar (Burma): Effective drugs beat malaria

Fighting malaria

MSF runs several major programs targeting malaria, the number-one cause of death in the country. The world's most resistant strains of malaria are found along the border with Thailand. Due to the high resistance of these strains to traditional anti-malarial drugs, MSF exclusively uses artemisinin-based combination therapy in Myanmar. These medicines are fast-acting and potent, and to date no resistance to them has been reported (see page 10).

MSF malaria teams work closely with local health structures, and hard-to-reach communities are accessed through a network of mobile clinics. In addition to treating the disease, the teams are involved in training local health workers and raising community awareness of malaria transmission and prevention. MSF's malaria programs currently span Tanintharyi division and the states of Kachin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan. The program in Tanintharyi's Dawei district was extended to Myeik (Mergui) district in January 2002. Programs in the other areas also continue to expand, and MSF will treat over 100,000 patients for malaria in 2002.

Assisting marginalized groups

MSF tries to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Myanmar through condom promotion and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among sex workers. People living with HIV/AIDS in Myanmar are often discriminated against and have little access to health services. MSF supports multiple clinics where care is provided for people living with HIV/AIDS and also provides home-based care in Kachin, Shan and the capital Yangon (Rangoon). MSF is preparing to implement the first antiretroviral treatment in the country in December 2002.

A new program launched in Shan state in October 2001 includes STD and HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and advocacy, as well as treatment for malaria and tuberculosis.

2002 marks the tenth anniversary of the flight of the mainly Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh. MSF assists Rohingyas in Bangladesh (see page 78) and in Myanmar itself. In Rakhine state, where Rohingyas are denied citizenship, MSF provides primary health care at the village level, as well as malaria diagnostics and treatment, supporting a network of 22 clinics throughout the region.

MSF has worked in Myanmar since 1992.

International staff: 24
National staff: 454