Myanmar (also known as Burma) is located between Bangladesh and Thailand, and bordered by the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. With an asymmetrically adult population, Myanmar has about 57.1 million people. Myanmar is the largest country by area in Mainland Southeast Asia. The more than 135 officially recognized and distinct ethnic groups are broadly categorized into eight major national groups: Bamar, Chin, Kachin, Kayin, Kayah, Mon, Arakanese, and Shan. Though there are more than 100 languages spoken in Myanmar, two-thirds of the nation’s population speak Burmese, the official language. With bustling markets, and numerous parks and lakes, Yangon is the country’s largest city, while Naypyidaw, called “the abode of kings,” is the capital. The main religions include Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism.
Following Japanese occupation, Myanmar was reconquered by the Allies and granted independence in 1948. The country became a military dictatorship under the Burma Socialist Programme Party in 1962 after a coup d’etat. Since independence, civil wars have become a feature of the country’s sociopolitical landscape. Contributing to its vulnerability, Myanmar is prone to persistent and highly destructive natural disasters such as earthquakes, cyclones, flooding, and landslides. With a nominal per capita income of $1,400, unemployment nearing 37 percent, and 26 percent of people living in poverty, Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia.
The life expectancy of the Burmese people is 67 years, the lowest in Southeast Asia. Despite a steady increase in health expenditures by the government in recent years, the health system is still weak due to decades of neglect. Non-communicable diseases increasingly contribute to the most deaths in the country, including stroke COPD, ischemic heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, cirrhosis, and asthma. Other ailments such as lower respiratory infections, neonatal disorders, and diarrheal diseases continue to cause significant numbers of deaths. While incidence of death due to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis has decreased over time, they still continue to pose a major threat to the country’s healthcare system, as well as being a significant cause of death.
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