Although people in Myanmar are entitled to free health care, malnutrition and tropical diseases affect the health of much of the population. Myanmar doctors are well-trained, but there are not enough doctors, nurses and hospitals to treat all those who need medical attention, and equipment and drugs are in short supply. From 1985 to 1995, only 60% of the population had access to health services.

 Many serious diseases are common in Myanmar. Typhoid and dysentery are caused by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Viral hepatitis is spread by contaminated water or shellfish. Worms may be picked up from unwashed vegetables or uncooked meat. Tetanus and rabies are caused by dog, cat or monkey bites. Insect-borne diseases include malaria and dengue fever. AIDS is increasing at an alarming rate. 

Like other developing countries, Myanmar is trying to improve sanitation standards in order to eradicate these diseases. In the early 1990s, only 38% of the population had access to safe drinking water. There are several good hospitals and clinics in Yangon, including the Diplomatic Hospital, the University Hospital and the Yangon General Hospital. Outside Yangon, people may be treated in hospitals or clinics.
  Did you know?
Myanmar has the world's highest death rate from snakebite.
The health of children is improving slowly. More than 80% are immunized against tuberculosis, and more than 75% are immunized against other diseases, such as measles or diphtheria. However, malnutrition remains a problem. Almost 2 million children do not get enough to eat every day.

 When a person is hospitalized, friends, relatives and colleagues visit and provide support. In the countryside, food may not be provided for the patient, so relatives build a log fire in the hospital compound and cook for the patient. Traditional prenatal and neonatal care is often provided by a midwife or let-thare. She not only helps with the actual delivery, but also performs the duties of a housekeeper for families in which there is a new baby.

 Many families use traditional medicines to treat illness. Yesah, a herbal digestive powder found in every Myanmar household, is believed to be a common cure-all. Thwezay is a tonic used predominantly by women. Jaggery (a coarse dark sugar from palm trees) and ginger are used to make various remedies.

  Did you know?
Thanaka is the soft outer bark of a tree (Linoria acidissima). It is made into a paste, which is smeared on the face to prevent sunburn. It may also be used as a cosmetic.