In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the healthcare systems of 190 countries throughout the world. In this ranking, Myanmar’s healthcare system was listed as the worst overall. Myanmar is still a grade three level of concern to the WHO, meaning multiple major events have affected public health in Myanmar.
Health of Mothers and Children
Shortly after becoming independent from Great Britain in 1948, Myanmar — formerly Burma — became the subject of a dictatorship, which lasted until November 2015. Under this dictatorship, nearly a third of the country’s budget was allocated for the military, while just over one percent of funding was set aside for Myanmar’s healthcare system. As a result, infant and maternal mortality rates and infectious illness rates were astronomical; the maternal mortality rate was listed at 380 per 100,000 live births, nearly 60 times the rate of Japan. As of 2013, the government increased healthcare spending to almost four percent, but the people of Myanmar are still struggling with overall wellness.
The Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association (MMCWA), founded to improve the health of mothers and children in Myanmar, has collaborated with various organizations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation, United Nations Population Fund and UNICEF to redesign Myanmar’s healthcare system. By providing education on disease and STI prevention, advocacy programs and family planning services, the MMCWA aims to lower maternal and infant mortality rates and help level out birth rates in Myanmar.
Overall Healthcare in Myanmar
Another organization, Medical Action Myanmar (MAM), is working from the bottom up to improve overall healthcare in Myanmar. MAM’s focus is on communities with little to no access to healthcare. The organization is working to create a network of health services and provide medical treatment and preventative education. To decrease the incidences of HIV in the country, MAM is providing safe needle exchange, condom distribution and STD treatment. The services are free for those who cannot afford them.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also provides public health interventions and health assistance to communities in Myanmar. USAID’s focus often lies in extending assistance to high-risk communities that wouldn’t usually have access to healthcare. By performing the country’s first-ever demographic survey, USAID was able to identify what health concerns were most prevalent and, over time, has provided treatment to those suffering from tuberculosis, malaria, diarrheal disease and other emergent health concerns.
Growth efforts in Myanmar are off to a slow start after being under a dictatorship for so long, but the government is determined to make a change. The Ministry of Health’s “Vision 2030” goal of improving nine major sectors of Myanmar’s healthcare system, although lofty, is an incredible beginning to the transformation of the country with the world’s worst healthcare.
– Anna Sheps