Myanmar Health Minister Calls Global Fund’s Decision To Terminate $98M Grant ‘Unwarranted’
Myanmar Health Minister Kyaw Myint has "strongly criticized" the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for its recent decision to terminate grant agreements with the country, calling the action "uncalled for and unwarranted" and saying the withdrawal would affect "people on the streets," who are hardest hit by the diseases, the Financial Times reports (Kazmin, Financial Times, 11/18). The Global Fund in August announced that it was suspending its grants to Myanmar -- also known as Burma -- citing travel and other restrictions implemented by the country's military-controlled government that impede the delivery of medical supplies and services. The fund in 2004 pledged to spend $98 million over five years to fight the three diseases in the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/23). "Whoever pulled the trigger for this termination will be held morally responsible for the plight of these people, who are going to suffer for want of money," Kyaw Myint told the Times. He also said that the temporary travel restrictions, which since have been relaxed, were an inadequate reason to terminate the funding. Global Fund officials "should have consulted us, or at least give us warning signals that we are falling behind, so we can improve it, and try to satisfy their needs," he said, adding, "But they didn't do that. They just terminated -- just chopped us off."
Many aid workers based in Yangon, the country's capital, say some U.S. lawmakers and advocates who oppose the country's military government pressured the Global Fund to cancel its grant agreements. Kyaw Myint did not comment on potential political reasons for the withdrawal, according to the Times. The Global Fund money was being used to increase access to antiretroviral drugs, improve counseling and testing, expand condom distribution, and boost efforts to fight TB and malaria. Kyaw Myint said he plans to increase the country's efforts to fight the diseases with the help of other international donors to bridge the funding gap left by the Global Fund's withdrawal. About 610,000 of Myanmar's 52 million residents are HIV-positive, according to U.N. estimates (Financial Times, 11/18).
Toronto Star Examines HIV Treatment Programs in Myanmar
The Toronto Star on Sunday examined how HIV/AIDS treatment in Myanmar has become "politically charged" because the government is "interfering in the way care is delivered" in an effort "to control the image and perception of" the epidemic. According to the Star, foreign health care workers said the military government has requested that foreign health agencies submit the names of workers and track how funds are spent. Myanmar officials also accompany foreign aid workers on their visits to clinics outside of Yangon. Health workers interviewed by the Star refused to give their names for fear of retribution and a termination of their programs, the Star reports. Some groups say that programs should not operate in Myanmar because of the government's policies, but other advocates say the country's people need foreign assistance. "The Myanmar people are the double victims," one foreign health worker said, adding, "They have a government that doesn't care about them and the international community decides not to do very much. So people are nicely stuck in the middle. Do you punish them for having a government they did not elect?" Myanmar receives about $1 per person annually in international aid, compared with Laos, which receives about $85 per person (Scrivener, Toronto Star, 11/20).