Greatest Needs: Protecting Communities from the Spread of Tuberculosis in Burma

Burma-large Every six months, Give2Asia features several projects that require immediate funding in their Greatest Needs catalogue.  These projects have been vetted by Give2Asia and then broken into scalabe sizes for donors to invest in.  The purpose is to showcase needs in the region, highlight the work that local, on the ground, organizations are doing and then provide a mechanism for those that choose to act. 

Partner: Metta Development Foundation

Cost: $55,000 creates 5 new TB centers and helps treat and educate hundreds who are infected or at risk.

The Challenge.  Burma has one of the highest prevalence rates of tuberculosis (TB) in the world with an estimated 1.5% of the population becoming infected each year. Of the 120,000 case that are identified, a high percentage are among those living with HIV/AIDS due to their compromised immune systems.  Lack of education and awareness has also resulted in misuse of TB drugs, which leads to increased prevalence of drug-resistant strains of TB. The Director General of the World Health Organization has identified drug-resistant TB in Burma as an “explosive situation.”

Kachin State, one of Burma’s most rural and remote areas, survives primarily on mining and logging. Because of its rich natural resources, Kachin attracts economic migrants from other areas of Burma looking for work. Mining camps and migrant traffic make Kachin a high risk area for both TB and HIV/AIDS. Lack of awareness about TB is compounded by illegal drug use and sex work. In 2008, the number of deaths in the area doubled for people co-infected with HIV and TB.

The Goal.  To reduce the risk and spread of TB by empowering communities in Kachin State through better education, prevention and treatment of TB infections.

The Solution.  This project will improve access to quality TB care and support programs in Kachin State with the establishment of new clinics, improved training for local health care professionals, and community involvement programs that will build awareness about this critical issue. Building on Metta’s existing HIV programs in Kachin, this program will provide the comprehensive support necessary to curb rising TB infections in the region.

5 new TB centers will bring together people infected by TB for treatment and education. These centers will create support networks for 150 patients and help educate 180 who are infected with both TB and HIV/AIDS. The centers also will focus on improving early detection of new TB cases, as well as helping people stay on schedule with their treatment.

Training, counseling and awareness building will result in improved services from health care providers, community advocates and volunteers working with at-risk communities. In addition, a broad marketing campaign will help improve community knowledge about the disease. Finally, the project will identify vulnerable children and migrant workers at risk, providing them with counseling, nutritional support and referrals as needed to health clinics.

Job training and help for widows will help women who lost their husbands to TB and who now must support their families alone. The project will identify 10 widows who are living in poverty, and provide them with training and resources to start and scale up their own small business. These small businesses will help them avoid jobs that require extreme physical labor and that prevent them from caring for their families. The program will identify widows who also have TB, and will help to ensure that they are staying current with their treatment.

About Metta Development Foundation
Metta Development Foundation was established in 1998 to assist communities in Myanmar recovering from the debilitating impact of decades of civil conflict. The word “Metta” in Burmese comes from Buddhist teaching and means wishing for the well being of all living things.