Discarded syringes in northern Shan state.
Photo by Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)

The conflict-affected region of Northern Shan State (NSS) has become the epicentre of Asia’s illegal production of opium/heroin and methamphetamine. Drug cultivation and production often take place in difficult-to-access areas that are controlled by non-state armed actors and militias linked to the Myanmar Army. The trading and consumption of drugs has become more visible in NSS since the military coup of February 2021, due to corruption, a lack of effective law enforcement, the ongoing civil war and the scaling back of already limited harm reduction programmes.

In this Working Paper, Kathy Win reports on research which set out to understand the role of CSOs, faith-based groups and EAOs in harm reduction programmes and to assess the challenges and opportunities surrounding attempts to respond to drug issues in Northern Shan State.

The paper explores the role of CSOs in providing harm reduction services, focusing on usage and access to harm reduction; the role of harm reduction programmes led by CSOs, faith actors and EAOs; the extent to which there is collaboration between different actors; and the challenges that face efforts to improve harm reduction and community resilience to drug harms.