No One Left Behind: Myanmar Civil Society Steps Up in Support of Universal Health Coverage
On October 23 and 24, 2019, more than 300 delegates from civil society organizations (CSOs) nationwide gathered in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, at the Fourth National Forum of Myanmar Health Civil Society organized by Pyi Gyi Khin (PGK) with support from Community Partners International (CPI). They were joined by more than 80 representatives from international and national non-government organizations, donor agencies, and the Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS). At the forum, delegates explored the role and progress of health CSOs in supporting the attainment of universal health coverage (UHC) in Myanmar. In addition, CPI unveiled a new mobile application to support the development of the Health CSOs Network in Myanmar.
CSO health providers are an important part of Myanmar’s push to attain universal health coverage by 2030. Numbering in their hundreds, and dispersed throughout Myanmar’s 14 states and regions, these health CSOs deliver crucial primary and public health services and support to hundreds of thousands of people who struggle to access basic health care.
In 2016, after decades of neglect and underinvestment, the newly-elected government in Myanmar began to initiate health sector reforms. As part of this process, they drafted a National Health Plan (NHP), 2017-2021, as a first step towards the attainment of UHC. In a groundbreaking move, they invited participation from health CSOs and ethnic health organizations who had been excluded from national health service planning processes for many decades.
At that time, there was no formal mechanism or network to help coordinate the national efforts of these health CSOs and liaise with the MoHS in support of UHC and the implementation of the NHP. In response to requests from MoHS and civil society organizations, CPI and PGK, a Myanmar NGO, launched an initiative to establish a national Health CSOs Network.
Now in its fourth year of existence, the national Health CSOs Network comprises more than 350 health CSOs across Myanmar. Since 2016, CPI and PGK have organized state/region-level forums in 12 of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions in which delegates elected state/region-level focal persons to participate in the national-level network. Concurrently, CPI and national partners have organized four national Health CSOs Network forums to bring together these regional focal persons to share knowledge and experience, develop strategy, track progress, and finalize annual action plans.
At the Fourth National Forum of Myanmar Health Civil Society, delegates focused on the four main pillars of social accountability: 1) organized and capable citizen’s groups; 2) an enabling environment, with government champions who are willing to engage; 3) cultural appropriateness; and 4) access to information.
They explored mechanisms to support accountability of health service providers and to enable local populations to take greater role in decision-making around health services. Delegates agreed on the need for civil society organizations to self-coordinate their accountability efforts to ensure alignment with country and global UHC monitoring frameworks. They also finalized the network’s 2020 Action Plan.
At the forum, CPI staff also unveiled a pilot version of a new mobile application, the Myanmar Health CSOs Network App, to support coordination within the CSO Network and better share information with the MoHS and other key stakeholders. The Myanmar language application, which is designed to work in environments with little or no internet connectivity, hosts a directory of more than 350 CSOs in all states and regions of Myanmar that provide health services. This enables users to quickly identify which CSOs are operating in each township in Myanmar, which health services they are providing, and their contact information. The application also contains resources to help develop users’ understanding of UHC.
While currently aimed primarily at health CSOs and the MoHS, the intention is that later versions of the application could be used by the general public to access information about available health services in their local area.
The application is currently only available for Android operating systems. CPI intends to develop an iOS-compatible version in the future. The application can be downloaded free from the Google Play store here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.an.cpicso
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