By WAI SANN
RANGOON — Burma will face a serious shortage of tuberculosis drugs next year unless it can find a new source of funding to replace the current supplier, the Global Drug Facility, which will end its support at the end of this year, according to health agencies.
“We’re now urgently trying to persuade international donors to donate the drugs for next year, but so far we haven’t received any funding yet,” an official from an international non-governmental organization said on condition of anonymity.
The official also added that health agencies have received a five-year grant to fight the endemic disease from the Global Fund agency, but that project will not start until 2011.
“We’re trying our best to fill the one-year gap with international assistance, but we just don’t know when the funding will come,” the official said.
According to health agencies, the government has already held a meeting with health agencies in Naypyitaw, the new capital, to discuss means of raising the necessary funding, and will hold another in late April.
Speaking at a meeting of the Ministry of Health and the Global Drug Facility in Naypyidaw in the first week of December 2008, Burma’s Health Minister Kyaw Myint said that the country needs a sustainable supply of tuberculosis drugs to continue making progress in controlling the spread of the disease.
The Global Drug Facility has provided first-line TB drugs to Burma through the National TB Program (NTP) since 2002. It decided last year not to renew its program after it received confirmation that the Global Fund would provide a five-year grant starting in 2011.
According to an NTP report, about 1.5 percent of Burma’s population of 55.4 million becomes infected with TB annually. Around 130,000 people become TB patients every year, approximately half of whom are “active” cases capable of spreading the disease to others.
Burma is one of 22 countries in the world most affected by TB. According to sources, the government spent US $440,000 in the fiscal year 2007-08 to treat TB patients.