May 11, 2008

Over the weekend, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF) sent 3 cargo planes from Europe with a total of 110 metric tons of relief supplies, including tents, medical material and drugs, pumps and generators for water and sanitation activities, and ready-to-use therapeutic food. The first plane is scheduled to arrive Monday morning local time. The MSF team will be on site to ensure delivery.

The MSF base in Pathein (Bassein) continues to receive daily truckloads of supplies and new staff coming in from MSF’s other long-running projects in other parts of the country. The supplies include food, plastic sheeting, and other medical and non-medical supplies. Medical supplies have been donated to Pathein Hospital and an office has been set up to co-ordinate the activities in the area. We now have 8 boats, five of which can carry 5 tons and three additional larger ones.

The teams have now received 150 metric tons of rice, 100,000 cans of fish, 250,000 oral rehydration sachets, 20,000 sachets of therapeutic food, and 17,000 plastic sheets, much of which has already been distributed.

There are now just over 100 staff in the delta and between 10 and 20 new staff are arriving each day. Most of the staff working in the region are medical, water and sanitation, and logistical staff. There are now 15 teams working in these areas of the delta including 17 doctors (about half of all staff are medical). The teams do medical consultations, distribute food, plastic sheeting and other items, purify water and clean up sites where people have sought refuge. There have been no signs of epidemics so far.

MSF has also set up an operations hub in Haigyi - in the southwestern corner of the delta. The town was badly affected with 90 percent of houses destroyed. There are three teams working in Haigyi Island West, and a further three in Haigyi Town. Teams are also operating in Tongwa and Pyinsalu, two towns east of Haigyi. Teams estimate that they have reached more than 50,000 people with distributions and water and sanitation activities, and done over 1,700 medical consultations of which the majority are still wounds with diarrhea and respiratory tract infections also common.

Yesterday, three teams arrived in Laputta, which was also badly affected with 80 percent of buildings damaged. MSF has begun setting up a second base in Laputta where there are about 30 sites with 3-5000 displaced people in each. Food, shelter materials, water and sanitation, and medical supplies have been sent to Laputta. From there, MSF sent two medical teams south to the villages of Labutta south and Pyensala and a further three teams are travelling south today.

Further east in the areas of Twantey, Kawhmu, and Bogaley there are 15 MSF staff – doctors, nurses, experts in water and sanitation, and logisticians split into 3 different teams.

MSF has set up a base in Twantey, where two teams have distributed food rations to 4350 people and are carrying out medical consultations, as well as nutritional screening of the children. They have also cleaned and chlorinated contaminated wells in order to improve access to drinkable water.

MSF teams have also assessed the area of Kawhmu, with an estimated population of 140,000. Tens of thousands of people are homeless and have gathered in about 60 displaced sites. The rural areas have been heavily flooded and very little assistance has yet arrived.

In Kungyangon, 11,000 houses have been destroyed. Displaced people in the town have gathered in 20 sites of around 600 people each. MSF is planning to organise mobile medical teams in the town and in the rural areas by boat.

In Bogaley, a district of 100,000 people heavily hit by the cyclone, thousands of people have been killed and many more are homeless. The hospital of Bogaley is still functioning, but seven out of the eight health centres in the area have been destroyed. MSF started distributing food and providing medical care to the people in the district following the cyclone and trucks with food, relief items, and medical material for the hospital have followed.

However, the MSF team in Bogaley is facing increasing constraints imposed by the authorities. As a result, the team is unable to provide as much assistance as it can in order to respond to the enormous needs in terms of food and medical care.

More than one week after the disaster, despite the sending of 3 cargo planes and some positive signals, it has been very difficult to provide highly needed supplies for the heavily affected population in Myanmar. As of today, MSF still awaits the approval of dozens of visa applications for technical support staff and coordinators submitted to various embassies around the world.