Myanmar: Maintaining medical services and tending to new needs

Overcoming MDR-TB in Conflict: Lashio Clinic

Myanmar 2019 © Scott Hamilton/MSF

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in Myanmar are working hard to maintain access to some of the country’s most vulnerable people and ensure the provision of medical care to those in need. At the onset of the crisis we prepared an emergency team to respond to the evolving needs, and have adapted as the medical demands on the ground overwhelmed hospital capacity.

February 28 was one of the most violent days in Myanmar since the start of the military coup earlier that month, with at least 18 reported deaths. That same day, and the next, MSF’s emergency preparation team started responding in Yangon to assess the needs at protest sites and donate medical supplies to hospitals in the city and in other MSF project locations. This team, comprising medical staff and counselors, aims to provide support to medical facilities.

Since then, the violence has increased: it was reported that 38 people were killed in the protests on March 4. 

MSF has donated medical supplies to a number of hospitals. Meanwhile, MSF clinics in Lashio received and treated four people who sustained minor injuries during the protests. Dawei, in south eastern Myanmar, has also seen violent confrontations and casualties in recent days. Our teams aim to support community initiatives with donations of medical supplies and first aid kits, and are also reinforcing capacity to manage injuries. At the same time, MSF teams are working to ensure continuity of care for our HIV patients.

Growing numbers of HIV-positive patients from the National AIDS Program (NAP) of the Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS) are returning to MSF clinics for medical consultations and medication refills. These are the same clinics where they received treatment before we handed over the program to health authorities in 2019. With the NAP not functioning in the wake of the coup, we also have new patients arriving in our clinics. As many of Myanmar’s public hospitals are closed, we are finding it difficult to refer patients to larger facilities for specialized treatment.

We are mindful of the effects of the coup on both our staff and patients and are doing what we can to minimize the resulting risks and access issues. While our activities in Rakhine state are running, the Rohingya community—especially those living in displacement sites—remain particularly vulnerable to disruptions to medical services. The Rohingya have already suffered decades of neglect, discrimination, violence, and persecution.

In all circumstances, and regardless of age, religion, or political affiliation, MSF’s priority is the provision of care for our patients. We will continue to deliver impartial medical care to the most vulnerable people to the best of our ability, and while access and circumstances allow.