Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

Poverty, Malnutrition, and Myanmar's "Silent Emergency"

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

Poverty, Malnutrition, and Myanmar's "Silent Emergency"

Article excerpt

Despite the junta's aim to create a "modern developed nation", a World Bank draft report leaked to the press concludes that poverty and human development indicators in Myanmar have fallen behind most developing countries.6 Life expectancy at birth is sixty years compared with an average in East Asia of sixty-eight; infant mortality is seventy-nine per thousand births, compared with the East Asian average of thirty-four; child malnutrition rates are very high and represent a "silent emergency". Data collected by both the Ministry of Health and UNICEF show high levels of moderate and severe malnutrition among preschool-age children. According to a government-determined poverty line, about one-quarter of the population lives below minimal subsistence levels. The highest rates of poverty are in the Chin state, Magway division, and Kayah state. At the same time, the quality of healthcare has deteriorated: public use of hospitals and dispensaries had fallen by 80 per cent over the last ten years, while the junta allocates only 0.2 per cent of its budget to healthcare, far below regional and developing country averages. For example, Cambodia, which has a smaller income per capita than Myanmar, spends three times more on public health as a share of gross domestic product (GDP). The United Nations AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) programme accused the junta of ignoring a mounting AIDS epidemic in the country, estimating that there are 440,000 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive cases. …

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