Friday, 08 April 2011 19:56 Tun Tun
New Delhi (Mizzima) – More than 25 percent of the people in Chin State are infected with malaria and an estimated 20 percent die from the disease, according to a Indo-Burma group that conducted a private, unofficial health survey.
The survey was conducted along the border with a focus on Chin State. The findings are in sharp contrast to official government figures found in 'Myanmar Health Statistics 2010' data posted on the health ministry website, which says 4.8 percent of the people in Chin State are infected with malaria.
'According to the health workers here, many deaths are found with symptoms of malaria. So we examined the cases with a RDT (Rapid Detection Test) method, and we got these results and figures', said one of the leaders in the non-government survey.
Groups that took part in the unofficial survey included the Chin Public Affairs Committee (CPAC), Naga National League for Democracy (NNLD), Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), Zomi Human Rights Foundation and the Kuki Women Human Right Organisation.
The group was formed in October 2007 to work in malaria disease control and provides medical assistance to women and children, medical treatment, diagnosis, and educational campaigns in Chin, Rakhine, Naga Hills, Kabaw valley and Kachin State.
The deputy coordinator of the CPAC field survey team said he did not accept the official government statistic of 4.8 percent in Chin State.
He said he has met with health workers in the area who haven't been paid and who have little or no medicine to treat malaria patients. 'How can we believe their official statistics?' he said.
The unofficial high incidence of malaria cases, he said, can be attributed to a lack of information among local people and lack of proper medicine.
'Some drug stores and some small shops run by families sell malaria drugs in these malaria-prone areas, but they don't know the exact dosage and prescription. The patients buy drugs from these unauthorized shops and stores. Then they stop the medicine based on their own decisions when their condition improves. They might not take a full course of the drugs because it gives them headaches and dizziness', he said.
Min Thang, who works with the Zomi Human Rights Foundation, said, 'People have no awareness and knowledge of malaria. Another factor is malnutrition'. Health Minister Dr. Pe Thet Khin said at a meeting held in Naypyitaw on April 4 that he suspected the existence of Artemisinin drug resistant malaria cases in Burma. He urged the Drug Administration Department and Economics and Commerce Ministry to stop importing substandard medicine to treat malaria.
He also said high standard drugs must be made available because malaria cases have been found in 284 townships across the country.
'People are using easily available cheap and fake drugs produced in China or drugs unrecognized by UN health agencies', said a member of the survey team, which increases the likelihood of drug-resistant cases. 'This is very dangerous', he said.
'People do not have support mechanisms to combat malaria such as mosquito nets or mosquito spray. Most of the people cannot afford to buy mosquito nets. They have to work in the mosquito-infested deep jungle and have no protection so they face a high incidence of malaria', he said .
According to official health department statistics, 500,000 people were infected with malaria and 974 people died of the disease in 2009. The official website says Rakhine State has a 4.1 percent malaria rate; Kachin State, 3.9 percent; and Kayah (Karenni) State, 3.1 percent.