Three days after Cyclone Nargis affected several areas of Myanmar, causing the deaths of a reported 10,000 people and severe material damage, large parts of the population remain without drinking water, food, and shelter.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have so far been able to assess all areas in the townships of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, and are in the process of trying to assess areas outside of Yangon that we suspect may have been harder hit. For humanitarian actors it is essential to have unrestricted and immediate access to all affected populations and regions in order to assess needs and react accordingly.
MSF teams in Yangon began setting up a first emergency response, including distribution of food and plastic sheeting, and water chlorination. In Daala and Twante, two townships with a total population of 300,000, MSF teams witnessed the destruction of 80 percent of houses in certain pockets and up to meter-high flood waters. Under these circumstances infectious diseases such as cholera can spread easily. In these two areas MSF is organizing a first emergency response by distributing food, water, and first necessity items for 5,000 people.
MSF also has four long running clinics in other townships of Yangon, focusing on maternal and child healthcare, sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) and HIV/AIDS, and has made all of these clinics available for anyone with health needs related to the cyclone.
MSF in Myanmar is treating more then 16,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, and has more than 8,000 patients on antiretroviral treatment (ART). We are concerned that some of our patients may have treatment interruptions, either because they cannot access our clinics and/or because they have lost their medicines during the cyclone.
Families whose houses have been destroyed are now living in public structures that resisted the cyclone, such as pagodas and schools. The priority here is to provide drinking water, food, and first emergency items.
Prices of basic foods, including rice, have already doubled in the last few days, which is very worrying for a population who have already been living under precarious circumstances before the cyclone.
For the moment our teams have not seen injuries on a significant scale, however we suspect casualties are much higher outside of Yangon, in areas that we are in the process of trying to assess. A team is going today to the western coast of the country, an area apparently very hard-hit by the cyclone.