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Health Ministry focuses funds on tuberculosis treatment

X-rays from tuberculosis patients in Burma. (PHOTO: DVB).

Up to US$4.7 million of government funds have been poured into treatment for 1,000 multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) patients in the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to Deputy Health Minister Dr Thein Thein Htay.

The deputy minister added that the year before, the government had treated 600 people with the disease.

According to UNITAID, an NGO engaged with combating diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, around 180,000 people in Burma are expected to contract active tuberculosis each year. The bacterial disease primarily attacks the lungs, but can also infect other organs such as the kidneys or brain. If not treated promptly and effectively, TB can be deadly.

UNITAID estimates close to 9,000 of those cases to be of the MDR-TB mutation, a particularly deadly strain which requires a two-year treatment program of toxic and expensive medicines.

Since mid-2009, the Ministry of Health said it has treated more than 3,000 MDR-TB infected people, and reported a 79 percent success rate amongst 443 patients in 2012. This year, the ministry plans to provide tuberculosis healthcare in 108 townships across Burma.

After 60 years of isolation, Burma’s healthcare suffered enormously. In a 2013 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, Burma came last on a list of 190 countries for overall health system performance.

Even in 2015, national healthcare spending only totals 4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, compared to Laos’ 4.5 percent and Cambodia’s 5.6 percent expenditure.

Read more about Burma’s healthcare system here