November 10, 2010

More than two weeks after Cyclone Giri struck Myanmar, the emergency response is insufficient to meet people's needs.

More than two weeks after Cyclone Giri struck the west coast of Myanmar, the emergency response is insufficient to meet people's needs.

The October 22 cyclone caused massive destruction in villages east and south of Sittwe, Rakhine State. At least 81,000 people are homeless and 40,000 acres of agricultural land have been destroyed weeks before the harvest, according to official estimates. People need food and shelter materials.

For cyclone survivors, this is a period of critical vulnerability. They urgently need more assistance.

MSF teams are working in Minbya and surrounding townships, the areas hardest hit by the cyclone. MSF estimates that many villages are more than 50 percent destroyed; some were totally flattened. Many families are seeking refuge in monasteries or using scraps to piece together makeshift shelters. Most people report having little or no food and few prospects for obtaining any in the short term.

In the village of Kyauk Nga Nwar, all 150 households were destroyed. An MSF team treated a 90-year-old man who was too frail to flee the cyclone and remained in his house with his two sons. During the storm a tree destroyed their house, injuring all three of them.

Among the many health risks exacerbated by the cyclone, the area is now entering a peak season for malaria transmission. Lack of shelter, food, and adequate medical care will further increase the threat posed by this disease.

In cooperation with the authorities and other actors, MSF has been distributing kits of food, shelter materials and tools, and plans to distribute additional aid to thousands more of the cyclone-affected families over the coming days and weeks. MSF has also been deploying medical teams to provide primary health care to the affected population and has donated drugs and medical materials to local health care facilities. In the area MSF has assessed, three of six rural health centers were completely destroyed.

MSF has worked in Myanmar since 1992. In recent years it has focused on treating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and responding to natural disasters like the devastating Cyclone Nargis in 2008. Across Myanmar, MSF runs 17 HIV clinics that together provide anti-retroviral treatment to more than 16,000 people, as well as nine health centers and more than 30 malaria field posts.

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