Myanmar Cyclone: MSF Teams Bring Immediate Assistance While Additional Staff and Relief Materials are Ready to be Sent

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Geneva/New York, May 7, 2008 — Immediately after Cyclone Nargis hit several regions of Myanmar, teams in the country with the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) began assessing and responding to the needs of the population in Yangon and in neighboring areas. First assessments show that in the Daala and Twantey zones, south of Yangon and home to 300,000 people, 80 percent of buildings have been destroyed and some parts of the region are still flooded under one meter of water.

MSF teams, who are able to circulate freely, have distributed food and plastic sheeting, and have begun treating water in Yangon. In the outskirts of the city, MSF has organized the distribution of plastic sheeting, jerry cans, and fuel for water pumps to some 5,000 people. Yesterday, teams were also able to distribute one week’s worth of food rations composed of rice, dried beans, and oil to 1,000 people in the Twantey area. Malaria and dengue fever are prevalent—even endemic—in this area, so MSF is also planning a mosquito net distribution in the coming days.

Both rural areas and urban areas have been hit hard. Initial reports by MSF teams indicate that rural people are relying on what remains of their food stocks and are collecting bamboo to rebuild their houses. However, people in towns are becoming increasingly reliant on food assistance, as food shortages exist and the price of rice has now tripled. In the Twantey and Daala areas people are gathered in and around numerous monasteries and schools, without food or clean water. These numerous and spontaneous multiple gathering sites, with over 50 alone in the Twantey zone, mean that bringing appropriate assistance will be challenging.

“We are continuing to bring relief assistance to the affected populations and will extend our assessments,” said Souheil Reiche, MSF head mission in Myanmar. “However, it is clear today that with the limited means we have, both in terms of human resources and material, we are not able to adequately respond to the needs of the population. Following the government’s appeal for international assistance, it is essential that emergency visas are issued and that relief shipments are allowed to arrive. MSF teams have been on standby for 48 hours waiting to come to help us in the Delta.“

Twenty international staff, all experts in emergency interventions, are ready to join the MSF teams in Myanmar. A cargo plane containing 40 tons of first aid materials, plastic sheeting, therapeutic food, and sanitary materials, is ready to leave from Europe this evening. 

MSF has been working in Myanmar since 1992.  Today, 38 international staff and 1,200 national employees are working in different projects in seven areas of the country.