Emergency Update: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Activities in Myanmar

  • MSF teams are increasing their efforts in some of the worst-affected areas of the Irrawady Delta: Bogaley, Pathien (Bassein), Laputta, and southwest along the Pathien (Bassein) River
  • A full charter with 40 tons of supplies is departing from Bordeaux, France, Friday, May 9, 2008 at 4 pm CET. Planes with 160 tons are planned for the coming days
  • MSF has 43 international staff and 1,200 national staff throughout the country, 70 staff in southwest delta area with many more on the way. Teams are treating wounded, distributing food, and providing water and relief items
  • MSF is continuing its efforts to get increased access for staff and relief material

Increasing Emergency Response

MSF teams are intensifying their response in some of the worst cyclone-affected areas of Myanmar’s (Burma) Irrawaddy Delta, by providing medical care, basic relief items and food, as well as improving access to clean water. A first cargo plane carrying 40 tons of relief supplies and medical materials is leaving Europe today for Yangon, Myanmar.

In the southwest of the Irrawady Delta, MSF is supporting the hospital of Pathein (Bassein). To the south of Pathein, MSF has so far performed several hundred consultations in Haigyi, Pyinsalu and Tongwa, about half of which were for cyclone-related wounds while most of the rest were for diarrhea, fever and respiratory infections.

MSF teams are using two boats to reach the most-affected areas on both sides of the Bassein River. With teams set up in Haigyi, Tongwa, and Pyinsalu, MSF is in the process of expanding to other villages. MSF teams have seen many dead bodies, but it is difficult to give an estimate of how many people have died. There are large numbers of flattened homes and other structures and much of the area remains flooded. This is posing problems in finding suitable places to set up facilities to provide medical consultations.

So far, nine truckloads of supplies have gone to Pathein (Bassein), including 14,000 pieces of plastic sheeting, 62 tons of rice, as well as oil, fish and therapeutic food. Most of these supplies have gone south on boats to Haigyi and other project areas.

As of May 9, 2008, there will be about 70 MSF staff working in this area with many more on the way from MSF’s established projects in other parts of the country.

Acute Needs in Bogalay

Further East, in Twantey township three MSF teams have distributed food rations (rice, oil, beans, fish) to 3,000 people who lost all their belongings in the cyclone. MSF is carrying out medical consultations in places where homeless have sought refuge, such as pagodas and schools. MSF also rehabilitated latrines, wells, and water pumps.

Other MSF teams used boats to reach Bogaley, a district of 100,000 people which has been heavily hit by the cyclone. Thousands of people have been killed in the cyclone and many more made homeless. The hospital of Bogaley is still functioning but seven out of the eight health centres in the area have been destroyed. MSF has started distributing food and providing medical care to the people. Wells and water are in need of repair as they have been contaminated leading to a number of cases of diarrhea.

Trucks with food, relief items and medical material for the hospital are on their way to Bogaley. MSF workers from other projects in the country are also coming to reinforce the team.

The MSF team is also heading further south to the Kungyangon area, which has a population of over 200,000.

Human Resources and Supplies

In total, MSF has 43 international staff and over 1,200 national staff currently working in Myanmar. MSF also awaits the approval of dozens of visa applications for technical support staff and coordinators submitted to various embassies around the world.

A full charter – with 40 tons of medical supplies, plastic sheeting, therapeutic food, and water and sanitation equipment, is flying today at 4pm CET from Europe.

There are four further shipments of supplies ready to be dispatched to Myanmar, totalling 160 tons, including medical supplies, therapeutic food, plastic sheeting and water and sanitation equipment. They are ready to fly from Europe, Dubai and Jakarta. These cargos should leave in the next few days pending authorizations from authorities in Myanmar (Burma). Current in-country supplies are limited and MSF’s activities cannot be sustained indefinitely without international cargo shipments.