By AYE KYAWT KHAING / THE IRRAWADDY
RANGOON — An anti-addiction NGO in Rangoon says it has been forced to cut over half its rehabilitation and campaign activities as international funding has dried up.
Burma has around 70,000 registered drug users according to government figures.
The Myanmar Anti-Narcotics Association (MANA) says the loss of funding from groups such as the Global Fund, 3D Fund and UN agencies means it is no longer able to operate many of its methadone clinics to help recovering addicts around the country, and has been forced to scale back its “say ‘no’ to drugs” campaign.
“We have seen a nearly 60 percent drop in our activities,” said Ko Ko Gyi, a central executive committee member of MANA. “If we cut off methadone, the number of drug addicts will increase. It will badly affect the human resources in our country.”
He said the organization used to operate around 10 remote clinics in Burma’s border regions, but has been forced to close all of them. MANA says it still helps over 850 recovering addicts at centers around Rangoon, but these are increasingly under threat from the lack of funds.
Myint Khaing, secretary of MANA, said: “UN agencies have granted only 20 percent of projects we have proposed in the last two years. We need more money to make our activities more effective.”
However, a spokesman for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said MANA had failed to apply for funding in the past six years, after securing grants of US $50,000 in 2005 and $138,000 in 2006.
“I think it unfair to state that MANA’s current funding situation has anything to do with UNODC’s absence of support to MANA. If an organization does not put together a proposal arguing for such support … then UNODC is in no position to provide such assistance,” said Jason Eligh, UNODC’s country manager for Burma.
MANA also received financial support from Australian NGO the Burnet Institute between 2007 and 2011.
Min Soe, a 36-year-old drummer with Mandalay Rock Arms, praised the work of MANA. He has been receiving methadone through a MANA-supported program at San Pya General Hospital in Thingangyun Township since January 2012.
“I will be back in the drug-using cycle again if this program is stopped. I am lucky enough to have joined the program before I died.”