3 October 2013

With recent political and economic changes in the country, Myanmar is experiencing a rapid increase in development partners. At the World Health Assembly in May 2013, the Minister of Health characterized the Ministry of Health as being in the early stages of managing an increasingly diverse set of partners who are now ready to support the sector and work more closely with government. Following the Assembly and at the request of the Minister, there was an IHP+ mission to Myanmar in the last week of August 2013. This article provides a summary of the mission and discusses steps to be taken in order to achieve development effectiveness results in the future.

With the recent political and economic changes in the country, Myanmar is experiencing a rapid increase in development partners. At the World Health Assembly in May 2013, the Minister of Health characterized the Ministry of Health as being in the early stages of managing an increasingly diverse set of partners now ready to support the sector and work more closely with government. Following the Assembly and at the request of the Minister, there was an IHP+ mission to Myanmar in the last week of August 2013. The purpose was to review how current mechanisms to improve harmonization and alignment behind government priorities are working, identify opportunities for improvement, and develop recommendations on practical next steps that can be taken over the short term.

The IHP+ team was impressed with the efforts at development cooperation already in evidence in Myanmar. This includes the transformation of the previous Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism into the Health Sector Coordination Committee, chaired by the Minister of Health. However, the team acknowledged that further strengthening these fledgling partnership arrangements will take time.

Dr Andrew Cassels, mission team leader, also emphasized ‘the need to design a health system for the future and not just the present’, such is the pace of change in the country. To promote more harmonized support by partners, one recommendation was for the government to spell out strategic priorities in selected areas that are bottlenecks to quickly improved service delivery. This, together with a mapping of current support for health systems strengthening, and recognition of the increasing importance of the private sector, will be critical for better coordinated support to the health sector. Other recommendations concerned multi-donor funds – both finding ways to use government financial management systems, following some high-quality diagnostic work on financial flows and financial management capacity, and to involve government more in their decision making processes.

The Ministry of Health ‘may yet be a long way off One Plan, One Budget, One M&E Platform, but they recognize the value in the IHP+ approach’, said Dr Cassels. The foundations for effective cooperation in the health sector are already being put into place, and there are good indications that they will continue to be strengthened and built upon. Myanmar’s journey will be one to watch with great interest in the coming months and years.   

Categories: Myanmar


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