May 09, 2008

Geneva/Yangon, May 9, 2008—As the first MSF relief plane receives permission to land in Yangon tomorrow, Saturday, the international medical humanitarian organization has already intensified its emergency program. As MSF scales up, there is a need for more technical experts and further supplies in the coming days. MSF has staff in various countries awaiting visas, and several other planes of cargo ready to leave in the coming days, though these still need permission from authorities to land.

Geneva/Yangon, May 9, 2008—As the first Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF) relief plane receives permission to land in Yangon tomorrow, Saturday, the international medical humanitarian organization has already intensified its emergency program. As MSF scales up, there is a need for more technical experts and further supplies in the coming days. MSF has staff in various countries awaiting visas, and several other planes of cargo ready to leave in the coming days, though these still need permission from authorities to land. 

The first cargo plane, containing 40 metric tons of water and sanitation equipment, relief stocks, medicines, and therapeutic food, will leave Europe this afternoon. Landing clearance has been given, and our teams will be there to receive the material and immediately distribute it to some of the most affected.

MSF teams, already based in Myanmar, responded immediately after the cyclone hit, providing food, basic relief items, medical care, and improved access to clean water. MSF teams are using two boats to reach the most affected areas in the south-west tip of the Irrawady Delta, mainly in Haigyi, Tongwa, and Pyinsalu, where 95% of homes are destroyed. So far, nine truckloads of supplies have gone to Bassein, including 14,000 pieces of plastic sheeting, 62 tons of rice, as well as oil, fish and therapeutic food. The teams have done several hundred consultations since Wednesday, about half of which were for cyclone-related injuries, while the remainder were for diarrhea, fever and respiratory infections.

Other MSF teams are carrying out assessments by truck between Yangon and Labuta, including heavily hit Bogaley. In every affected location the teams simultaneously assess the needs, distribute food and provide medical care to the people. Following the assessments, trucks with additional relief items and food will follow shortly. The food being distributed comes from existing MSF stocks and from the World Food Programme. However more food and safe drinking water are urgently needed as our teams await the arrival of Saturday’s plane. 

“Additional teams and key materials should arrive soon to help us scale up our relief effort," says Hugues Robert, Head of MSF emergency operations in Geneva. "We’ve had very constructive discussions with the authorities and the fact that they have given a green-light for the first cargo plane to land on Saturday, is a positive sign. We've seen the scale of the destruction and the suffering is huge. But we will not be able to address these urgent needs without the necessary additional supplies and the arrival of more experienced emergency staff, particularly experts in water and sanitation.”

As MSF scales up and begins to see the extent and severity of the damage, the number of casualties, and people vulnerable to exposure, hunger and disease, it is clear that a much greater response is urgently needed.

In total, MSF has 43 international staff and over 1,200 national staff currently working in Myanmar.

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