Doctors Without Borders Calls For Immediate and Unobstructed Escalation of Myanmar Relief Operations

The most recent updates on MSF's work in Myanmar can be found here:
MSF Responds to the Cyclone in Myanmar

Yangon/Geneva/New York, May 16, 2008—Fourteen days after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar, the needs remain immense in the Irawaddy Delta. Teams with the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are delivering direct medical assistance and relief supplies to tens of thousands of people. However, MSF urges an immediate scale up of overall relief operations, which have been deployed far too slowly and are largely insufficient.

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes and many are gathered in makeshift camps. They are in urgent need of drinking water, food, and other basic necessities. Elsewhere, survivors are living among the remains of their homes, surrounded by floodwater.

MSF already had medical projects in Myanmar before the cyclone hit. This has enabled MSF to immediately respond to the catastrophe in the Delta, bringing relief directly to the populations. Teams now work in over 20 different locations and are managing to push further into the outlying areas. They treat several hundred patients each day. In addition to wounds, the main health problems are respiratory infections, fever, and diarrhea. So far, 140 tons of relief materials have been flown into the country. More than 275 tons of food have been distributed since the beginning of operations.  

“Although MSF is able to provide a certain level of direct assistance, the overall relief effort is clearly inadequate,” said Bruno Jochum, MSF director of operations. “Thousands of people affected by the cyclone are in a critical state and are in urgent need of relief. The aid effort is hampered by government-imposed restrictions on international staff working in the Delta region,” he said. “For example, despite the fact that some MSF water and sanitation specialists have been granted visas to enter Myanmar, they have not been permitted to travel into the disaster area, where their expertise is desperately needed. An effective emergency operation of this magnitude requires coordinators and technical staff experienced in large-scale emergency response.”

MSF calls on the Government of Myanmar to allow for an immediate increase of the relief effort and free and unhindered access of international humanitarian staff to the affected areas.

MSF has worked in Myanmar since 1992. At present, 250 MSF staff are working in the Irawaddy Delta in the areas of Pyanpon, Bogaley, Haingyi, Pyinsalu, Tongwa, Labutta, Thingangon, and Chaungzu. Some 30 international staff are mostly confined to Yangon. So far, MSF has flown in four cargo planes with emergency items including water and sanitation equipment, medical supplies, therapeutic food, and other relief supplies. A fifth plane is due to arrive in Yangon on Friday, May 16. MSF has been able to receive these goods in its warehouses in Yangon, from where they are further dispatched by MSF teams to logistics bases in Pathein and Bogaley in the Delta.  Boats chartered by MSF are then used for onward transport into the disaster area.