TB Support: Lin Young Chi Self-Help Group
The Lin Young Chi Tuberculosis Self-Help Group (SHG) is a drop-in multi-purpose clinic located in one of Hlaing Tharyar township’s 20 wards. Hlaing Tharyar is a densely populated township on the outskirts of Yangon. It is deeply impoverished. Most of its population of almost 700,000 moved to the area following Cyclone Nargis in 2008, their homes in the delta destroyed.
Daw Ma Ma U, a veteran nurse who has 12 years experience treating TB in Myanmar, operates the SHG from a basic wooden clinic and small farm adjacent to a muddy and polluted channel on Hlaing Tharyar’s eastern edge. The group is largely run by several specialist nurses and ex-patients who continue to volunteer for the programme.
The group has three core areas of operation: tuberculosis support; mother and child healthcare; and a micro-finance farming scheme.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that can spread through the lymph nodes and bloodstream to any organ in the body. It is usually found in the lungs and is the second most deadly infectious disease in the world. It is estimated that over 180,000 adults and children in Myanmar are infected with TB, including 20,000 who are also HIV positive. Myanmar has the fourth-highest TB prevalence rate in the world, with an incidence of 525 cases per 100,000 people.
Multi-drug-resistant-TB (MDR-TB) may develop when patients are unable to complete their treatment course, if they are prescribed the wrong treatments, or if the supply of drugs is not available. MDR-TB can then be spread from person-to-person. While drug-sensitive, TB can be cured with a six-month course of antibiotics. MDR-TB requires 24 months of highly toxic and costly medicines and injections.
This is why Daw Ma Ma U’s Self Help Group is vital to end this cycle. Not only does she ensure that TB patients in her group take their treatment correctly, but she organises monthly community talks to educate the residents of Hlaing Tharyar about TB prevention and how to identify symptoms. She also refers people to hospitals where they can undergo a TB check.
The Angus McDonald Trust supports the clinic's staff - critical to delivering their nutritional and medical programmes.
MOTHER AND CHILD HEALTHCARE
Its population having exploded since Cyclone Nargis in 2008, Hlaing Tharyar lacks the basic healthcare facilities found in central Yangon. As a consequence there is an unacceptably high rate of maternal and newborn mortality from preventable reasons, such as a lack of skilled care during delivery and the immediate post-natal period, lack of mother and child nutrition, and infection post-birth.
Daw Ma Ma U provides a range of critical services to the township’s mothers and children. She supplies nutritional supplements including eggs from her chickens, mushrooms grown on-site, beans purchased locally, and rice. The group also distributes medication donated by hospitals in Yangon that are vital to the prevention of infection.
The Angus McDonald Trust provides funding for the group’s mother and child nutritional programme, allowing Daw Ma Ma U to reach more people in her community.
SUSTAINABLE FARMING AND MICRO-CREDIT
To ensure that the programme is sustainable, the clinic operates a small farming business on the land it occupies. The farm is staffed by several ex-patients who share in a small cut of the proceeds. They keep a number of chickens, collecting the eggs for the clinic’s nutritional programme, and also grow organic vegetables and mushrooms. The clinic runs a small micro-finance scheme, renting out land and chickens to locals for a small fee.
The Angus McDonald Trust is assisting in the purchase of 100 chickens to expand the scope of their output.