The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

Tuberculosis is still a reality, but people continue to fight!

This article was published more than two years ago. Some information may no longer be accurate.

Dagon Seikkan Township sits in the eastern part of Yangon. Between the trees and along the coast, more than 165,000 people built a life in this industrial town. Young Hlaing Hlaing Htet lives here.

Now 18 years old, Hlaing Hlaing Htet lives with her parents and eight siblings. She dropped out of school a few years ago and spends her time helping out at the family’s grocery store.

But, last June, something changed for Hlaing Hlaing Htet. 

She started losing weight. Incessant coughing and sweating would keep her up at night. Hlaing Hlaing Htet’s family became alarmed when these symptoms refused to subside. 

Her father suspected that she might have tuberculosis and took her to visit a TB mobile team. The team, co-ordinated by the National TB Programme and supported by 3MDG, was making its way through town. They tested Hlaing Hlaing Htet and diagnosed her with the disease.

The National TB Programme immediately put Hlaing Hlaing Htet on a course of treatment for six months. Fortunately, she had the regular form of the disease – one that responds to traditional TB medication. Hlaing Hlaing Htet did not suffer many side-effects from the treatment. 

What the young woman did feel, though, was the stigma associated with the disease. 

Because the disease spreads through the air, people fear that they will catch it – even when patients wear a mask. 

Suddenly, she became an outcast in her tight-knit community. 

When Hlaing Hlaing Htet’s neighbours found out that she was suffering from TB, they stopped visiting her family’s grocery store. To protect her family’s livelihood, she stopped going to the store and tried to stay out of sight, within the walls of her home. 

“I feel sad due to their behaviour. That’s why I dared not to go to our grocery shop.” 

But for six months the medications did their work and the family was more than relieved. 

“When I was cured my family and I danced around the house!”

Now recovered, life has returned to normal for Hlaing Hlaing Htet. She is back to helping her family at the store and meeting with friends in her spare time. 

And now she wants to share her story to help educate others in Myanmar affected by the disease…

Project details

Myanmar is one of the world's 30 high tuberculosis (TB) burden countries, with approximately 150,000 people still developing the disease each year. TB especially affects the urban poor and migrant populations. To address the epidemic within these groups, the Ministry of Health and Sports, supported by 3MDG and partners, sends mobile teams out to find new cases of TB. There are nine mobile teams working around the country.

During the first six months of 2016, 109 mobile visits were carried out in hard-to-reach locations and 'peri-urban' locations, which lie between urban and rural areas. Teams also visited prisons, worksites and mines.

The UNOPS-managed The Three Millennium Development Goal Fund (3MDG) works closely with Myanmar's national disease control programmes to support national strategies to combat TB and other diseases. Through a series of programmes 3MDG helps manage multi-drug resistant TB and acceleration of TB active case finding with mobile teams.

About 3MDG:

The UNOPS-managed 3MDG Fund is the largest development fund for health in Myanmar. 3MDG has a significant, timely and nationwide impact, improving maternal, newborn and child health, combating HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

In partnership with the Government of Myanmar and others, the Fund strengthens the national health system at all levels. 3MDG specifically aims to extend access for poor and vulnerable populations to quality health services.

By pooling the contributions of seven bilateral donors — Australia, Denmark, the European Union, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America — 3MDG promotes the efficient and effective use of development funds. 3MDG supports Myanmar's health sector with over $279 million in the period of 2012 to 2017.

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