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Establishing community based drug treatment in Myanmar

Nay Pyi Taw (Myanmar), 11 April 2017
- Drug treatment capacities in Myanmar received a significant boost this week through the delivery of a new UNODC training package to strengthen access to community-based health services for people who use drugs. The training of officials of the Myanmar Police Force, Ministry of Health and civil society partners follows a symposium held late last year between ASEAN countries and China, where a new approach to strengthen voluntary community-based health services throughout the region was announced.

Currently, there is need in Myanmar and the wider region for an alternative to compulsory drug treatment centers, where people are held for different various periods. Data collected from 7 countries in the region show that there are close to half a million people sent to such centers every year - and there is no evidence to suggest any clear treatment outcomes.

The training package addresses these gaps by supporting the roll-out of voluntary community based services in Myanmar and the region being tailored to complement the ongoing development of a new national drug policy in Myanmar. This process so far includes a review of the drug law, and a first-of-its-kind consultation process that has brought together various government agencies and civil society for in-depth discussions on policy direction.

"Even with limited resources we are committed to continuing to improve our delivery of treatment and to put people first", said Dr. Myint Han, Director General of the Department of Medical Services, Ministry of Health and Sports. "Improving voluntary access and patient-centered approaches is crucial to making this work. Public health and law enforcement agencies have a significant role to play to make sure our rollout of community treatment services is a success."

"The training is an important part of addressing gaps that we have identified in Myanmar based on the original Guidance for Community-Base Treatment and Care Services for People Affected by Drug Use and Dependence in Southeast Asia," said Michael Cole, UNODC expert. "The package introduces community based treatment and care service concepts to those who have never before received practical training on substance use issues - precisely what is needed in Myanmar at the moment."

In practical terms the training will support accessible and quality drug treatment and rehabilitation services. It will deliver knowledge and skills to those who need it most - welfare, community care and outreach workers, and others working in communities.

"This training will result in more effective drug treatment and care, and contribute to the general well-being of the community," said Colonel Zaw Lin Tun of the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) of the Myanmar Police force. "We want to start referring drug users to health services and not put them in prison, where they do not have any support to stop drug use and other risky behavior."

The training, and the wider regional strategy, are part of UNODC's efforts to support countries in the region to move towards health-centric and evidence-based drug policies. The region continues to work collectively on improving drug treatment through regional mechanisms, such as the Mekong MOU on Drug Control, to which Myanmar is also a signatory.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on drugs and health.

Click here to learn more about the Mekong MOU.

Click here to learn more about the Myanmar Country Programme.