Myanmar Cyclone: MSF teams bring immediate assistance, while additional staff and relief materials are ready to be sent
7 May 2008
Immediately after the cyclone hit several regions in Myanmar, MSF teams in the country began assessing and responding to the needs of the population in Yangoon and the neighbouring areas. Our first assessments show that, in the Daala and Twantey zones, south of Yangoon, home to 300,000 inhabitants, 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 Yangoon. In the outskirts of Yangon, MSF organized the distribution of plastic sheeting, jerrycans and fuel for water pumps to some 5,000 people. Yesterday (May 6) 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. In addition 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 hard hit. Our first impression from MSF teams is that rural people are relying on what remains of their food stocks and are collecting bamboo to rebuild their houses. However in towns, people are becoming increasingly reliant on food assistance, as food shortages exist and the price of rice has now tripled. In the Twantey and Daala zones, people are gathered in and around numerous monasteries and schools, without food or clean water. These numerous and spontaneous multiple gathering sites - over 50 alone in the Twantey zone - means bringing the appropriate assistance will be challenging. "We are continuing to bring relief assistance to the affected populations and will extend our assessments. 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," explained Souheil Reiche, Head of MSF Operations (Switzerland) in Yangon. "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." 20 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.