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ID: 868

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Practice

Topics: Community Mobilisation and Organising; Creating Enabling Environments

Presenting author: Sut Nau

Presenting author biography:

No biography entered.

Township community-led resistance to drug users and Harm Reduction in Northern Myanmar

Melanie Quetier, Sut Nau, Niklas Luhmann, Ernst Wisse

In Kachin state in Northern Myanmar, large numbers of people who use drugs (PWUD) are living in remote, rural areas. Many villages and townships are heavily exposed to injecting drug use. In the past years, a widespread community-led resistance to drug related issue has emerged. Violent anti-drug movements run non-official, forced detox camps and community leaders are strongly opposed to Harm Reduction interventions.
Harm Reduction organizations struggle to maintain their activities and to reach the PWUD and have faced closure of activities due to community resistance.

Myanmar is the second largest producer of opium in the world. The northern Kachin state has one of the highest burden of problematic drug use and related HIV prevalence among PWID reaches 47% (IBBS 2014) in some townships.
Townships have strong community dynamics and have the power to take decisions that jeopardize national recommendations on HIV prevention, treatment and care.

The international organization M├ędecins du Monde France (MDM) has started a collaboration with an experienced, local community-based organization called Metta Development Foundation. This organization brings their long lasting expertise in navigating within the complex network of (religious) leaders, (un)official grassroots authorities, anti-drug groups, youth groups, etc. whereas MdM provides the medical and technical support.

From onset of the project the community has been clearly identified as a main player. The strategy is to build capacity of existing local HIV/AIDS committees on harm reduction and to benefit from their influential position within the community. Another key element is to extensively discuss every Harm Reduction activity prior to implementation. Regular open discussion and awareness session are ongoing. So far the community provided positive feedback and are willing to collaborate and reduce violence against drug users.