Interview with a national doctor in cyclone emergency project in Myanmar


Dr Mya Aye*, a Burmese doctor, has just returned from Bogaley where Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is assisting survivors of Cyclone Nargis. She is the team leader, supervising both the medical and logistical teams who are going out on boats daily to assist the population. She will go back to Bogaley after taking one week's rest.  She recalls her experiences here.

"I have been working for MSF for three weeks in the emergency. I came for an interview with MSF in Yangon, did training for one week, and then I was sent to Bogaley. I arrived there two weeks after the cyclone. Before this, I was working in a private clinic in Yangon. I wanted to do something for the victims of the cyclone. That is the main reason I am working for MSF. I would have felt guilty if I didn't do anything. 

Driving to Bogaley, you can see much devastation. Most of the houses have no roofs. Everywhere you look, there is destruction. I saw many people staying along the roads and asking for help. I felt so sorry for them. Everything seemed to be quite normal in Bogaley town. But when we did the mobile clinics, going out to the villages, you could see the destruction. In some villages, there are only about 5% of people left and some villages have been completely destroyed. There is no-one left.

Each day, MSF makes boat trips to nearby villages. We do nutrition assessments, and give nutrient-rich ready to use food to the malnourished children and pregnant and breastfeeding women. We also do general consultations, where we are seeing some diarrhoea cases and also some injuries. Our main work when I was there was the distribution. Most of the people were very happy to be receiving the items we were giving them. The items we distribute are very useful for them, such as the plastic sheeting and the mosquito nets.

We're actually not seeing so many diseases but there are many psychological problems. Most of the people seem to be upset. They don't want to talk about the cyclone. They want to forget about this terrible event. But there are some people who want to talk and tell their feelings. They are crying a lot. They need time to heal, but they can't be cured in a short time.

Some people want to forget; they don't seem normal. In some villages, the people are totally depressed. They don't want to work at all and they are just waiting for help. Because they have lost all their relatives and all their property, they have nothing left. Some of the people want to work, and get on with their lives. But the ones who are not working, well, they are without hope.

When MSF arrives, we talk with the people and then try and find out about their problems. We have seen that the people need a lot. Most of them are farmers but they don't have anything to grow their rice. Some are fishermen, some of them want to work, but they have nothing.

The people are very happy to see MSF; they are very welcoming. This is a rural area and many have not seen a doctor, even before the cyclone. So they are so happy to meet with the doctors and to tell them about what they have experienced.

I remember one story especially. There was a man who came to us who just wanted to tell his story. He said that during the cyclone, he placed all his family in a small boat, including his mother and about 20 members of the family. He was trying to save them. But a big wave came and knocked the boat over. All of the family died, apart from three of them.

I will keep working for MSF as long as the project is open. In Yangon, there are many doctors. If I'm not there, it doesn't matter so much. But in the Delta, when I go there, there is something I can do for the people. I am so happy to treat the patients. They welcome me, they say thank you, they are so grateful."

*Name changed to protect identity.