MSF statement following military coup in Myanmar
On February 17, 2021, Benoit de Gryse, operational manager in Myanmar for the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), issued a statement expressing concern for public health and safety following the recent military coup.
“MSF is gravely concerned about the recent unlawful arrests and detainment of health care workers and people from the wider general public following the military coup in Myanmar on February 1, 2021.
"The arrests and widespread restrictions following the recently imposed ‘state of emergency’ have the potential to severely interrupt the lifesaving health care that MSF and others have been providing to some of the most vulnerable people in Myanmar. This puts the safety of the wider public at risk, with mass detainments likely leading to further outbreaks of COVID-19. Alongside the arrests, the reports of violence against protestors, and the potential escalation of this violence, are greatly concerning."
How MSF is fighting COVID-19 in Myanmar
The MSF Myanmar Facebook page continues to share COVID-19 prevention and health promotion messages. MSF teams provided medical assistance at quarantine sites and worked with the Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS) during the COVID-19 outbreak in Rakhine state.
We also worked with the MoHS helping to screen, test, and isolate patients suspected of contracting COVID-19, while monitoring and treating patients who tested positive and providing preventive equipment. We helped improve handwashing and education on proper mask-wearing with communities in Sittwe and Pauk Taw camps. MSF medical staff in Sittwe, in collaboration with the MoHS, also took sample swabs from people in Sin-Tet-Maw and Kyein-Ni-Pyin camps, in Pauktaw township.
In 2019, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continued to provide treatment for HIV and hepatitis C, and assist vulnerable people affected by conflict.
In 2019, we ran projects across the country, addressing gaps in health care in hard-to-reach communities and responding to the immense needs of people affected by interethnic tensions and displacement.
Conflict and displacement
More than 50,000 people were displaced in 2019 and several civilians died, including children, as a result of the continuous fighting between the Myanmar army and the ethnic Rakhine-backed Arakan army in Rakhine state. After several months of deadlock due to the authorities’ refusal to grant access to international humanitarian organizations, MSF was able to resume activities to assist the displaced, first in Buthidaung, in June, and then in Maungdaw in November. As well as running mobile clinics and conducting health education and psychosocial support sessions, our teams distributed relief items, such as mosquito nets, blankets and soap, and constructed shelters and sanitation systems.
We continued to work in displacement camps in Pauktaw township, central Rakhine, where thousands of Rohingya and other ethnic minorities such as Kaman, remain confined as a result of previous outbreaks of violence. We deployed seven mobile clinics offering general health care and emergency referrals around these settlements and in nearby villages, as well as in Aung Mingalar, a closed Muslim ghetto in Sittwe, where we also run a mental health program. Learn how you can best help in Myanmar and other countries.
MSF also opened two new project sub-sites in Kachin and Shan, neighbouring states in the north where there are large numbers of migrants, displaced people and groups vulnerable to HIV infection, such as drug users and sex workers. Our services include general health care and treatment for sexual and gender-based violence, HIV, hepatitis C and tuberculosis (TB).
HIV and hepatitis C
We are working closely with the Ministry of Health to transfer our HIV patients – including those co-infected with hepatitis C, tuberculosis. and multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) – to the decentralized national AIDS program so they can receive care closer to home. A total of 8,012 patients from our projects in Kachin, Shan, and Yangon were transferred. In June, we closed Insein clinic in Yangon after a successful transition.
In Dawei, a port city in Tanintharyi, where many fishermen and migrants live, MSF offers comprehensive HIV care, treatment, and prevention for people at risk.
In 2019, we also started working in partnership with Médecins du Monde to treat HIV patients co-infected with hepatitis C treatment in Kachin. Our team offers technical support, follow-up and data management .Please donate to support our work in Myanmar and other countries around the world now.
Health care in remote communities
Our mobile teams provide general health care to rural communities in Naga (Sagaing), a remote, impoverished region with few health facilities. Our staff conducted 3,250 outpatient consultations in villages in 2019, traveling by motorcycle across steep terrain to reach the 15 communities we have targeted. We are working there to strengthen the role of community health workers, promote health education and support the Ministry of Health with simpler, more accurate diagnosis of TB and MDR-TB.