“Children are our future, and their mothers are its guardians. And yet, this year alone, more than half a million women will die in pregnancy or childbirth. Almost 11 million children will die before they reach the age of five — 4 million of them in the first month of life. Almost all these deaths will happen in developing countries. A large number of them could be prevented.” – Kofi Annan, former head of the UN
Watch this video from Global Voices – 5 Scary Things About Health
The general state of healthcare in Myanmar (also known as Burma) is poor.
The military government spends anywhere from 0.5% to 3% of the country’s GDP on healthcare. This consistently ranks among the lowest in the world.
Myanmar is transitioning towards a negotiated conflict settlement and greater freedoms. However, huge challenges remain. These include longstanding tensions and a large stateless population in Rakhine, ongoing armed conflict and internal displacement in Kachin and Shan, and the threat of natural disasters, disease outbreaks and food and nutrition insecurity. Since there is a limited overview on the healthcare in Myanmar, this article briefly describes the current states surrounding health services in the country.
There are not enough medical doctors in Myanmar. Only 61 exist per 100,000 in the population. In 2012, the number of medical students was reduced from 2,400 to 1,200 to safeguard the quality of medical education. The information on causes of death in the general population is not readily available. However, some data can be retrieved from hospital records.
In the past few years, there has been improvement. Yet, the health system is still ranked as the worst in the world. A trial prepaid health insurance system started in July 2015. It will be followed by an evaluation one year later. There are many international donors supporting health in Myanmar. Among these include the Japan International Cooperation Agency. With these efforts and support, a marked progress is expected in the field of healthcare. The good news is that in 2016, 16.5 million ($US) has been raised by various health partners to fund and target 474,228 people in Myanmar. These are:
- 204,010 in camps, collective centres or self-settled people
- 13,504 people in host families
- 256,714 crisis affected and host communities
- 55% of the targeted population are female, 30% are children and 5% are elderly
There are several challenges facing Myanmar’s healthcare system. With the numerous issues facing the nation, as mentioned above, healthcare will be lacking until viable solutions are made available.
Central African Republic
More than two years of sectarian violence have decimated already fragile health systems in Central African Republic (CAR). This situation has led to a rise in preventable diseases such as malaria among families still hiding from armed groups in the bush, according to the head of a medical charity. The UN has warned that the situation in one of the world’s poorest countries has put it at risk of becoming “the largest forgotten humanitarian crisis of our time.” It is estimated that 2.7 million people are in need of urgent medical aid.
Laurence De Barros-Duchêne of Medicins Sans Frontiers says, “This crisis has destroyed what little was left. Lots of healthcare facilities have been destroyed; lots of healthcare personnel have left the health centres. The level of healthcare was very, very bad before but now it is almost non-existent.” It is predicted that there are more than 460,000 refugees from CAR are in Chad, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, and the DRC.
Families in CAR need help to rebuild their livelihoods. At the same time, international partners must also provide support for the judicial system to ensure there is no impunity for atrocities. In April, CAR’s national transitional council adopted a law to set up a special criminal court to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out since 2003.
On a positive note, a peace forum has been created. This forum is meant to bring together Séléka rebels, anti-balaka militias, trade unions, journalists, citizens who have fled their homes, political parties, and religious leaders to examine the reasons for the violence. It is also intended to start the painful process of rebuilding trust in a country long plagued by coups, rebels, and unscrupulous leaders.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Health problems have been a long-standing issue limiting development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). Medical facilities are severely limited, and medical materials are in short supply.
Most hospitals and health centres across the DR Congo are poorly staffed and equipped. This is because the healthcare system collapsed during the years of civil war. Health professionals have not received a wage from the government for many years. This means they have either gone private, emigrated, or become an employee of one of the foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) providing healthcare support.
The WHO and medical NGOs are doing their best to deal with a number of public health challenges. For example, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has been running immunization programmes against measles and polio.
In 2011, there were 89 polio infections and 129,000 reported cases of measles, leading to over 1,500 deaths.
There is only 1 doctor and 5 nurses/midwives for every 10,000 people in the DR Congo, according to the World Health Organization.
Around 55% of people live below the poverty line, earning less than a dollar each day.
Areas with the greatest number of poor are particularly in the east of the country, where conflict continues. Fighting and the lack of roads make it difficult for aid and help to be provided to certain regions. Malnutrition is widespread. Without a proper diet, nearly two-thirds of children lack Vitamin A, which allows the immune system to develop. Half of them suffer from a deficiency of other essential nutrients such as iron, Vitamin E, and zinc.
Fewer than a quarter of people have proper sanitation facilities and fewer than half have access to clean water. This means water-borne diseases such as diarrhea, bilharzia/schistosomiasis, and cholera are common. Outbreaks of cholera occur every year and around 3% of those who contract the disease die because of lack of treatment.
However, the greatest threat to health is malaria. In 2009, there were over 6.7 million cases of malaria. According to WHO, two out of every five deaths among young children are caused by malaria.
No official data exists, but around half a million people are estimated to be infected with HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
Check how your country compares versus the bottom three healthcare systems in the world by country and by chronic disease prevalence. What is the solution? One solution is to invest in the women of these under-developed nations.
“Children are our future, and their mothers are its guardians.”
Women are the world’s most under served and undervalued resource. At present, they make up 70% of the world’s poor. They earn only 10% of its income, despite producing over half its food.
Studies suggest that if women’s paid employment rates were raised to the same levels as men’s per capita income, some of our fastest-growing economies would rise 20 percent by 2030. Studies also show that a woman is apt to invest her income in her family.
Eighty cents of every dollar she earns goes toward health care, nutrition, and housing for her kids.
What do you think about the healthcare in your country as opposed to Myanmar, Central African Republic, and DR Congo? Head over to our Facebook page to tell us.