Launching CAHR programme in Myanmar

Myanmar, one of the largest producers of opium is a part of Golden Triangle together with Thailand and Lao People’s Democratic Republic which produces 70% of world opium[1].

Because of strict implementation of opium bans, challenging life for local people and constant conflicts in the bordering areas with China and India cultivation of opium is increasing in Myanmar.  Traditional places for opium growing shifted. Nowadays poppy cultivation is increasing in northern Shan State and Kachin State and Northeast India. Together with heroin consumption, amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) consumption is also on the rise. [2]

Conflict affected areas in Myanmar and Northeast India are places where opium cultivation is very common. As life of people from local communities becomes more and more difficult, cultivating opium can serve as a mean to survive in these areas. The ongoing conflicts also make it difficult to organize treatment and harm reduction services and it becomes problematic for PWID to access them.[3]

Precursors for heroin and ATS are not produced in Myanmar, they are often brought from neighboring China and India[4]  which create close linkages between three countries and people involved in drug production, dealing and consumption.

It is estimated there are 75,000 people who inject drugs in Myanmar[5] thought there is no precise data on the number of people who inject drugs (PWID) in the country[6]. HIV prevalence among PWID is reaching 18.7%[7] and HCV 79.2%[8].

National policy documents support harm reduction programme, needle and syringe exchange programme and opioid substitution therapy are operational in Myanmar[9]. But as it is quite challenging to work in cross border areas where conflicts often occur, this will be a priority for harm reduction efforts supported by CAHR programme in Myanmar in 2015. As there are partner organisations in China (AIDS Care China) and India (India HIV/AIDS Alliance) this creates a unique opportunity of linking and strengthening harm reduction services in the bordering areas of three countries and sharing experience and knowledge between three countries.

On 16-18 February, 2015 Alliance Myanmar together with Regional Technical Support Hub for Eastern Europe and Central Asia organized a coordination meeting of CAHR partners in order to design approach to harm reduction programme in Myanmar. Representatives from Alliance Myanmar, India HIV/AIDS Alliance, AIDS Care China, International HIV/AIDS Alliance, International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine, International Drug Policy Consortium, and National Drug User Network Myanmar (NDNM) spent three productive days discussing results of assessment visits to bordering area of Myanmar, India and China and planning activities in order to start the programme.

It was decided to start harm reduction services in Tamu, Muse, Leige and link them with those provided in the bordering areas of India and China which will give PWID an opportunity to visit services across the countries without any boundaries. As there are already some acting organisations and services available most of the efforts will be made to link existing services and add those which are missing. With the support from IDPC policy and advocacy activities will be organized in order to improve policy environment enabling harm reduction services provision.

NDNM will receive capacity building from a number of partners including International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD), Asian Network of People Who Use Drugs (ANPUD) and India Drug Users’ Forum (IDUF).



[1] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2011), South East Asia Opium Survey 2011 (Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), http://www.unodc.org/documents/eastasiaandpacific//2011/12/ops-2011/Opium_Sur­vey_2011_-_Full.pdf

[2] Transnational institute Bouncing back Relapse in the Golden Triangle/. Available at www.tni.org June 2014

[3] See note 2.

[4] Transnational Institute (2015). Towards a healthier legal environment. A review of Myanmar’s drug laws. February 2015 Available at: www.tni.org

[5] UNAIDS (2012). Global AIDS Response Progress Reporting: Myanmar. Geneva. Available at: www.unaids.org

[6] See note 4.

[7] UNAIDS (2014). Global AIDS Response Progress Reporting: Myanmar. Geneva. Available at: www.unaids.org

[8] Nelson PK, Mathers BM, Cowie B, Hagan H, Des Jarlais D, Horyniak D, et al. (2011) Global epidemiology of hepatitis B and hepatitis C in people who inject drugs: results of systematic reviews. Lancet. 2011;378(9791):571-83.

[9] Harm Reduction International (2014). The Global State of Harm Reduction 2014. Available at: www.ihra.net