Health


Thousands of people in eastern Burma are urgently in need of drinking water after the area’s lakes and wells were polluted by floodwater last week.
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Poe Cho lies small on the floor of the children’s ward at Mae Tao Clinic. His tiny body has been stilled by dengue fever. Poe Cho, 7, was infected by dengue when bitten by the Aedes mosquito while staying at the Yaw Bu Temple in Myawaddy.
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Health workers and NGOs that focus on stemming the spread of sexually transmitted diseases conducted outreach activities at the Taungbyone nat festival in Mandalay’s Madaya township last week.
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Doctors in Rangoon are concerned about an apparently unexplained increase in recurrent influenza infections this rainy season.
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A shift in funding priorities by donor organisations is affecting the work of the famous Mae Tao Clinic, says its founder, Dr Cynthia Maung.
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A little girl balances a bag of donated rice on her head as she begs for her family of eight. Other children play in fetid, trash-clogged pools of water. And at a religious class at a makeshift mosque, more than a third of the children had not eaten that day. Or the day before.
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Myanmar’s ministers for information and health have been allowed to retire, state television reported Tuesday, in the country’s second Cabinet reshuffle in two months.
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The Mayanchaung Centre in Rangoon’s Helgu Township houses around 1,600 people, 140 of who suffer from leprosy — a disease that leaves its sufferers stigmatised by society. The centre was established in 1989 to house patients from the nearby Htauk Kyant leprosy hospital. Living conditions at the centre are poor. Though it receives funding from the government, there is not enough money to provide adequate accommodation or facilities. Also known as Hansen’s disease, leprosy is a bacterial infection that causes skin lesions and loss of feeling in parts of the body such as arms and feet. If left untreated, the disease can lead to the loss of limbs. Throughout history, leprosy sufferers have been stigmatised and often made to live together in colonies. “Nobody cares about us if we have this disease. We are not accepted. We have pain in our lives; we have pain in our hearts,” said one woman who lives at the centre. As the centre cannot afford to care for all the patients’ needs, many must find work. In a society that is hostile to leprosy sufferers, finding a job can be extremely difficult. “We have to find jobs and work part-time. But it’s not enough to make a living. That’s why we need donors,” said a man staying at the centre. While leprosy is curable these days, those living in remote areas in Burma often don’t get diagnosed until the condition has reached an advanced stage when it is too late for a cure.
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Some 200 residents in the Irrawaddy Division town of Myaungmya protested on Sunday, calling on government authorities to investigate the town’s public hospital for alleged extortion and misappropriation of medical supplies.
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Decades of ethnic conflict have left south eastern Myanmar one of the most landmine-ridden regions in the world. Few landmine victims get the treatment they need inside the country, formerly known as Burma, and so spend days travelling to neighbouring Thailand for medical support.
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Thonburi Hospital Group (THG), owned and chaired by property tycoon Boon Vanasin, plans to expand its presence aggressively in Burma by investing 5 billion baht (US$165 million) over five years to build three hospitals and clinics nationwide.
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Despite pledges of support from abroad, a much-publicised plan to renovate Yangon General Hospital is still completely reliant on government financing, fundraisers say.
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When Myanmar opened to the West, one of the first sectors multinationals were most excited to pursue was the healthcare market. Because of the country’s internally forced exile from the world’s stage, Myanmar’s healthcare system has long been starved of western pharmaceuticals, medical devices and diagnostic equipment. Currently, Myanmar’s government-supported public healthcare provides basic care and some acute disease management; however, the little bit of capacity that is available is sporadic. For the last several decades, the WHO, UN and various NGOs have all made up the difference between what a functioning public healthcare system should have been able to provide – in particular with respect to communicable diseases – and what little the government system was actually capable of delivering. Historically, Myanmar’s government has spent approximately 2% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare; impoverished Laos spends 4.5% and Cambodia 5.6%.  As a result of Myanmar’s inadequate spending on healthcare, the WHO ranked Myanmar’s healthcare system dead last out of the 190 countries ranked with respect to “overall health system performance.”
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Muslim Rohingyas living in shelters in Burma’s western Arakan State have said they are facing a severe lack of nutrition as a result of aid workers evacuating the region following attacks on their homes and offices in March.
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Some 900 Muslims from Meikhtila in central Burma who lost their homes in communal violence just over a year ago are now facing water shortages and sanitation-related diseases at the shelter where they reside.
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Over six decades of civil war in Eastern Burma, civilians fled en masse over the border to Thailand in search of basic necessities – physical security, food, medicine.
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Every afternoon, the long lines start to form, hundreds of men, women and children waiting to dip their plastic buckets into the lotus-filled reservoir just outside Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon. It’s their only source of clean drinking water, they say, and during the dry season, April and May, there is only so much to go around.
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Displaced villagers from Thameelay in Rangoon who were provided resettlement by the Democratic Benevolent Karen Army (DKBA) in Karen State are now receiving healthcare from Dr Cynthia Maung’s Thailand-based Mae Tao Clinic.
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The Mawlamyine Christian Leprosy Hospital is a long-established institution in Mon State, southern Burma, that treats leprosy, a highly stigmatizing disease that has long been endemic in Burma and was only brought under control a decade ago.
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Burma’s Ministry of Health issued a consumer warning to only buy drugs certified by government health authorities as cross-border contraband drugs continue to infiltrate the Burmese market.
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