Healthcare in Myanmar
In 2003, the United States imposed sanctions to restrict the financial resources of Myanmar’s former military government. These sanctions squelched international trade, making it very difficult to export medical and surgical equipment to Myanmar, and destroyed industries that hitherto had funded local communities. Without this support, malnutrition became widespread.
The life expectancy in Myanmar is 64 years of age, and the child mortality rate is 62 for every 1,000 births. The infant mortality rate is 50 per 1,000 live births, and the maternal mortality rate is one the highest in Southeast Asia.
More than 70% of deliveries are home births and of those, 43% occur with no skilled health worker present. The reason for the staggering number of home births is that remote villages have absolutely no access to health facilities. To reach a health facility, women must travel by boat or walk to the closest village.
Between 2007 and 2011, combined public and private health spending was just $17 per person, the lowest in Asia. In fiscal 2012, Myanmar’s former government spent only 1.3% of its overall budget on health care, compared to 23% on defense.
The new government quadrupled health care spending in fiscal 2013, putting $450 million into healthcare while reducing defense spending by a third. This increase in spending allows the government to purchase medicines that will be given to patients in rural hospitals free of charge. The budget increase will also be used to swell physician ranks by 1500. 6.5% of workers’ salaries will be taxed to cover these new costs.
But the reforms cannot happen on the backs of the citizens alone. General Electric, who entered with a $2 million deal, was the first American firm to contribute. The Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation put $10 million into action to introduce a vaccine that now defends children from five fatal diseases (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B, and haemophilus influenza type B). United Nations Office for Project Services will provide $300 million to treat those suffering from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.