Doctors Without Borders Providing Aid in Myanmar and China

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent humanitarian medical aid agency committed to two objectives: providing medical aid wherever needed, regardless of race, religion, politics or sex and raising awareness of the plight of the people we help.

In the United States the name Doctors Without Borders is often used instead.

From PBS Online interview with MSF doctor in Myanmar.

Dr. Asis Min of Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres is working in the aid group's operations base in Bassein in the southwestern Irrawaddy delta region of Myanmar -- the area hit hardest by the cyclone.

As of May 13, the group reported that it had 200 staff members in Myanmar with plans for more to arrive. The teams are conducting medical consultations, distributing food, plastic sheeting and other items, and working to purify water and clean up areas where people have taken temporary shelter. The group also was able to fly in three planes carrying 110 metric tons of relief supplies to Yangon to reinforce the teams on the ground, the organization said.

I'm in the capital of Irrawaddy division, the worst-hit part of Myanmar. Between 95 percent and 100 percent of the houses have been destroyed. One location is in the extreme south western part of Myanmar, where there are a lot of very small islands and small villages on the islands. Many small villages have been completely deserted -- there are probably no survivors.

It's very, very complicated because you can bring people and goods to one part of the island, but inside the island there are many villages where there is no transport. We are carrying sacks of rice, medical kits, and plastic sheets (for building temporary shelters) to these villages on motorcycles, the only form of transport available.

What's needed is a quick mobilization in terms of water supply and other sanitation work. In terms of food and shelter, we're going to scale up our distributions in the coming days. At the beginning our supply was limited, so we had to provide food only for two or three days. As a result, we have to go back again to those areas, while at the same time we are reaching new areas.

It's getting better, but I would not say that there is food for everybody, because we have not reached everybody yet. In one of our first intervention areas, there is no other organization working. There is a small amount of rice provided by the government. But I don't think everybody has food. For the time being we need more emergency response in terms of food distribution, shelter and health care. It's a complete abyss. Places are destroyed completely.

Most of the water sources have been contaminated. We are working on decontaminating the existing wells, but our capacity is very limited because we have not been able to send any materials like big water-bladders with modern decontamination technology. We currently have no means for that type of thing in the field. If we cannot act quickly in water and sanitation, then there is a huge risk of disease outbreaks.

We are procuring supplies locally, but I guess this will not be possible for much longer. We have authorization to land charters from abroad so this will solve a little bit our problem of availability of goods. But that will not solve the problem of reaching quickly the extremely remote places without any infrastructure.

Doctors Without Borders Calls For Immediate and Unobstructed Escalation of Myanmar Relief Operations.

Teams now work in over 20 different locations and are managing to push further into the outlying areas. They treat several hundred patients each day. In addition to wounds, the main health problems are respiratory infections, fever, and diarrhea. So far, 140 tons of relief materials have been flown into the country. More than 275 tons of food have been distributed since the beginning of operations.

“Although MSF is able to provide a certain level of direct assistance, the overall relief effort is clearly inadequate,” said Bruno Jochum, MSF director of operations. “Thousands of people affected by the cyclone are in a critical state and are in urgent need of relief. The aid effort is hampered by government-imposed restrictions on international staff working in the Delta region,” he said. “For example, despite the fact that some MSF water and sanitation specialists have been granted visas to enter Myanmar, they have not been permitted to travel into the disaster area, where their expertise is desperately needed. An effective emergency operation of this magnitude requires coordinators and technical staff experienced in large-scale emergency response.”

MSF calls on the Government of Myanmar to allow for an immediate increase of the relief effort and free and unhindered access of international humanitarian staff to the affected areas.

MSF Teams Working in China’s Quake-hit Areas.

The health-care infrastructure is good in Sichuan, but some hospitals have been damaged, and services have been limited and overwhelmed by wounded. Health-care interventions have been made free of charge in this post-earthquake period. There is a referral system in place for complicated medical cases (usually from towns to cities). Surgical equipment and capacity are needed, especially for orthopedic care and anesthesia.

The results from the initial assessment indicate urgent needs for shelters, drinking water, medical and sanitation supplies. Most pharmacies in the area were destroyed by the quake, and people are facing a dire shortage of medicines. Therefore, MSF is planning to send medicine and medical supplies to Chengdu.

“In the assessed areas, a lot of houses have been destroyed and many people have lost their basic living conditions,” says Philip Tavernier, the MSF Head of Mission in China. “We will therefore send blankets, plastic sheeting, and hygiene kits (soap, basin, towel, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.) from Hong Kong to the affected area.

MSF will donate surgical material, perfusions, dressing material, and additional drugs. Material to carry out dialysis will also be donated in order to treat the people suffering from the so-called crush syndrome.

In the next two days about 25 specialists (nephrologists, surgeons, doctors, nurses, psychologists, logisticians, and water-and-sanitation experts) should arrive in Sichuan, along with additional relief material.



China launches 3 bilingual websites for quake information.

The three sites were established by the Xinhua News Agency, the People's Daily and the China Central Television Station, respectively.


blog comments powered by Disqus