In late July, cyclone Komen caused major flooding in large parts of Myanmar. It was the worst natural disaster in the country since cyclone Nargis in 2008. MSF responded in Rakhine state and Sagaing region, both declared disaster zones by the president.
In Kalay and Tamu townships in Sagaing, and Minbya and Maungdaw townships in Rakhine, MSF teams distributed water and hygiene kits to reduce the risk of sanitation-related illnesses, and bed nets to prevent mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, which are endemic in these areas. In Monywa, Kalay and Tamu, MSF trained Ministry of Health staff and volunteers to clean up potential mosquito breeding sites such as flower pots and open water vessels with stagnant water, and provided door-to-door health advice on preventing dengue. Dengue rapid tests were donated to the Ministry of Health, whose staff was trained on how to use them. Teams also ran mobile health clinics with the Ministry of Health in the main shelters, which included monasteries, mosques, a high school and an orphanage.
Providing healthcare in Rakhine state
MSF continued consolidating the activities that had been stopped by the authorities for nine months during 2014. These included supporting the Ministry of Health’s mobile clinics that visited camps for internally displaced people in Pauktaw and Sittwe, and in ethnic Rakhine villages, as well as medical activities in Maungdaw, in the north of the state. In total, the teams conducted 84,689 outpatient consultations, supported vaccination campaigns for measles and polio and provided over 900 referrals to secondary health facilities. Access to healthcare remained unacceptably limited for many people in northern Rakhine, due to the severe restrictions on movement imposed on the Rohingyas, and the stark absence of other national and international humanitarian organisations.
New project in Wa Special Region 2
A survey conducted by MSF in Wa Special Region 2 confirmed a shortage of both basic and secondary healthcare services and disease prevention, as well as gaps in both vaccination and the provision of maternal health services.
In Lin Haw, MSF opened a new clinic inside a local health facility. Since September, teams have been running weekly mobile clinics providing basic healthcare at the market in Pang Yang. Teams also conducted general health and hygiene education and information sessions in two nearby schools.
Caring for people living with HIV
In 2015, MSF provided care for more than 35,000 people living with HIV through its projects in Yangon and Tanintharyi regions, as well as in Shan and Kachin states – MSF’s most substantial activity in Myanmar. The government has made great progress in the provision of HIV treatment but unfortunately only half of the estimated 210,000 people who need antiretroviral (ARV) therapy receive it. Treatment remains too centralised, so MSF is supporting the National AIDS Programme’s (NAP) initiatives to make care available to people nearer to where they live. In Dawei, MSF has started transferring stable patients to decentralised NAP sites. In all of its HIV projects this year, MSF continued putting the focus on vulnerable groups, including injecting drug users, men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers and patients with co-infections such as tuberculosis, drug-resistant tuberculosis or cytomegalovirus.
Mental health projects in Myanmar and Indonesia
MSF teams offered medical and psychosocial care to more than 700 people who had been detained after being rescued from abandoned smuggling boats in the Bay of Bengal in May and June.
In August, MSF started a mental health project for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in Lhokseumawe camp in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. In November, the activities were extended to two camps in Langsa.
No. staff in 2015: 1,076 | Expenditure: €16.4 million | Year MSF first worked in the country: 1992 | msf.org/myanmar
Ma Moe Moe Khaing – in Kachin state
“When we found out that my husband was HIV positive and started treatment with MSF, I got tested as well. I was two months pregnant at the time and I was also positive. My husband was very sick, he could not even walk straight and I was really scared and even thought about ending the pregnancy. But we decided to leave it up to faith and accept whatever baby we were given. We took our ARVs regularly following the doctor’s instructions. After I had given birth, I was still afraid that I might have passed on the virus, but when after 12 months all HIV tests were negative we were unbelievably happy. Our little girl is healthy and is now attending kindergarten.”