Saturday, July 22, 2017

Health ministry to streamline donor-funded programs

The Ministry of Health will be streamlining and cutting back on development projects run by international and local agencies.

A doctor conducts an HIV screening at a campaign in Shan State. Photo: SuppliedA doctor conducts an HIV screening at a campaign in Shan State. Photo: Supplied

Health Minister Dr Myint Htwe told The Myanmar Times that reductions will be made with an eye toward eliminating duplication and redundancy in programs that work with the government health sector.

“We are going to scrutinise programs based on their disease infection rate, the health situation and health services provided,” he said. “For example, if the disease infection rate has decreased, we will not continue the program. We will also accept more health programs that work in areas outside Yangon and Mandalay.”

Additional projects catering to rural areas will be encouraged, the health minister added.

The scrutinising process has already begun. The health minister said that renegotiations may have to occur before the new government resigns any memorandums of understanding with NGOs, including UN agencies and other international partners.

“Most health programs are working with and supporting MoH activity. They report their program activity to the MoH. So we are going to review their activity and will select their project area,” he said.

Dr Myint Htwe, who spent over 15 years working with the regional World Health Organization office, said he aims to avoid duplications where multiple organisations are working on the same programs in the same area, and redundancies that lead to unnecessary health initiatives.

“Those kinds of programs are not beneficial for the public. We have limited government staffs, so we cannot help unnecessary programs. If health partners want to give us money then we are going to use it to maximise the benefit for the people,” Dr Myint Htwe said, adding that he will be working with the Myanmar Health Sector Coordination Committee to streamline the health activities.According to the health department, over 70 donors are working on projects with the Ministry of Health.

A director of an international aid organisation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, supported increased coordination of the sector, but said that the scrutinisation and reduction must be done carefully in order to avoid leaving beneficiaries in the lurch.

“I could not deny that there are some duplications and redundancies, but some programs that may appear that way are not. For example, just looking at a map, some organisations cover the same area with seemingly the same program, but on the ground their work and their activities are very different from each other.”

Retired medical superintendent and INGO health worker Dr Ba Shwe said the minister’s initiative is much-needed.

“I totally agree with the idea of reducing some development partners’ programs because I think some healthcare provided is not matching up with the expenditure of the health development partner,” he said. “Our country’s health status has not improved much compared to other countries. The government should ensure health projects have effective performance assessments.”