Aid group to resume Burma funding

Nov 16, 2009 (DVB), An international medical aid group is to resume funding to Burma four years after it withdrew citing alleged harassment of staff by the military government.

The Global Fund, which focuses on prevention of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, claim that nearly half a million Burmese are suffering from malaria, while 0.7 percent of the population is HIV positive.

In 2005 the group terminated its $US19,200,000 grant to Burma after the government imposed restrictions on the travel of its staff, which meant they would be unable to visit grant implementation areas.

Marcela Rojo, from The Global Fund's communication department, said the nearly $US100 million will be provided to Burma over the next two years; $US15 million for HIV/AIDS, $US37 million for malaria and $US43 million for tuberculosis.

An estimated 76,000 people in Burma are in need of anti-retroviral treatment for HIV, while only 11,000 are currently receiving it, according to The Global Fund. In addition, around 25,000 people are thought to be dying of AIDS.

The cost of treatment equates to $US30 per month which is the same as the average Burmese salary, leaving many outside of its reach.

It is only in the last ten years that the government has acknowledged the HIV/Aids epidemic in Burma.

The prevalence of tuberculosis is also high, with more than 80,000 people believed to be infected. If left untreated, the bacterial disease kills more than half its victims.

Aid groups have criticised the Burmese regime for not investing enough money to tackle the epidemic, with only around 0.3 percent of the annual budget being spent on healthcare.

Restrictions on the movement of aid workers and their capacity to deliver assistance in Burma are among the strictest in the world.

The ruling junta was heavily criticised in the aftermath of cyclone Nargis last year when it refused visa entry to aid workers, despite the storm leaving more than 2.4 million people destitute.

Reporting by Nay Htoo

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