MSF first response in Myanmar to Nargis cyclone

MSF teams have so far been able to assess all areas in the townships of Yangon, the country's biggest city, and are in the process of trying to assess areas outside Yangon that we suspect have been harder hit. For humanitarian organizations, it is essential to have unrestricted and immediate access to all affected people and regions in order to assess the needs and to react accordingly.

MSF teams in Yangon are in the midst of a first emergency response, including distribution of food, plastic sheeting and water chlorination. In Daala and Twante, two townships with a total population of 300,000, MSF teams have witnessed 80 per cent of houses destroyed in certain neighbourhoods, and 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 basic survival items for 5,000 people.

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 food staples, 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 haven not seen injuries on a significant scale, however we suspect casualties are much higher outside of Yangon, in areas that we are trying to assess. A team is going today to the western coast of the country, reportedly very hard-hit by cyclone Nargis.

MSF also has four long running clinics in other townships of Yangon, focusing on maternal and child health care, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS and has made all of these clinics available for anyone with health needs related to the cyclone. MSF is treating more than 16,000 patients for HIV/AIDS and has more than 8,000 patients on antiretroviral treatment.

We are concerned that some of our patients may have treatment interruptions, either because they cannot access our clinics and/or they have lost their medicines during the cyclone. MSF has been working in Myanmar since 1992 and employs more than one thousand staff.