Learning from experiences in Germany: Delegation from Myanmar visits drug help facilities in Bavaria

Noticia

06.11.2019

Harm Reduction in drug policy works: The measures save lives and contribute to public health. This has been shown in practice and studies The Myanmar Government wants to learn from the experience in implementing the public health-oriented approach and has send a delegation to Germany. The high-ranking representatives from Myanmar were given a comprehensive insight into the work of various drug institutions during their study trip to Bavaria.

The delegation visits the manufacturing site in the district hospital in Hochstadt. / Foto: GPDPD
The delegation visits the manufacturing site in the district hospital in Hochstadt. / Foto: GPDPD

Harm Reduction in drug policy works: The measures save lives and contribute to public health. This has been shown in practice and studies The Myanmar Government wants to learn from the experience in implementing the public health-oriented approach and has send a delegation to Germany. The high-ranking representatives from Myanmar were given a comprehensive insight into the work of various drug institutions during their study trip to Bavaria.

During their three-day stay, the delegation from Myanmar, consisting of parliamentarians, high-ranking representatives from ministries and the judiciary, had the opportunity to get to know all the fields of a public health-oriented drug policy. Medical as well as psychological work, social work and self-help and thus the view of the patients were presented, as were the work of the police, the judiciary and the city administration. Germany is an international pioneer in developing and implementing Harm Reduction concepts as well as in the treatment and rehabilitation of people with addiction problems. Low-threshold counselling services, options for needle exchange or substitution of addictive substances reduce the risk of HIV infection and the number of deaths due to overdose.

Together with the Open Society Foundation Myanmar (OSM), the Global Partnership on Drug Policies and Development (GPDPD) organized this study trip on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to support the Myanmar government in the implementation of Harm Reduction approaches. It followed a visit of the delegation to Lisbon, where the delegates were informed about the Portuguese model.

Crosscutting cooperation is essential

 Already during the first stop of the study trip it became clear how important cooperation between the different institutions of drug policy is. The delegation visited the Working Group on Addiction (Arbeitskreis Sucht) of the city of Nuremberg, where all relevant actors from medicine, social work, self-help, police and the city administration meet. In the discussion with the working group, the visitors from Myanmar clarified important questions of interdisciplinary cooperation.

People are patients - not criminals

The programme also included four medical institutions that help people with different drug use disorders: the Caritas street ambulance in Nuremberg, the district hospitals of Erlangen and Hochstadt and the Forensic Psychiatry in Bayreuth. As one of the first hospitals in Germany, the hospital in Hochstadt has specialized in the addiction on psychoactive substances. It treats people addicted to heroin as well as persons with a problematic use of stimulants such as crystal meth. In particular, the use of crystal meth in Myanmar has increased sharply in recent years. Here, the delegates familiarized with long-term therapy options that help people to free themselves from addiction and return to a regular everyday life. All institutions regard people with a drug use disorder not as criminals but patients. This perception is essential for a sustainable drug and addiction policy.

(Re)Integration for a life free of addiction

The work of Mudra e.V. showed how people whose lives are negatively affected by a drug problem could find their way into a self-determined and everyday life. The association is one of the oldest addiction help institutions in Germany. Its approach includes the treatment and care of people as well as vocational (re-)integration. Mudra e.V. supports people in qualifying for the labour market and offers jobs itself. In order to find out how this works in practice, the delegation visited manufacturing sites and self-help groups of the association and talked to those affected.

The work of the police and the judiciary was also taken into account during the study trip: High-ranking police officers and a senior public prosecutor reported on their work and on the cooperation with medical institutions and self-help groups. Addiction prevention is an important component of German drug policy.

Myanmar's new drug control strategy

The Myanmar Government introduced a new National Drug Control Strategy in February 2018. This strategy focuses more than ever on people and their personal health and indicates a change in the country's drug policy. It focuses on development-oriented approaches to combating the drug problem and takes into account the respect of human rights. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has supported the Myanmar Government in developing this new policy. For the first time, the Myanmar Government is formally applying the approach of Harm Reduction in the drug policy field. The visit to Germany also provides important information on the implementation of the new National Drug Control Strategy.

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