MSF work in response to Myanmar cyclone

Distribution of food, plastic sheeting and the chlorination of water

The Nargis cyclone, which affected several areas of Myanmar caused the death of at least 10, 000 people and provoked severe material damage. Three days after the cyclone, large parts of the population remain without drinking water, food and shelter.

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

Our teams in Yangon started setting up a first emergency response, including distribution of food, plastic sheeting and the chlorination of water. In Daala and Twante, two townships with a total population of 300,000, MSF teams saw an 80% destruction of houses in certain pockets and up to meter high flood waters. Under these circumstances infectious diseases such as cholera can spread easily. In these two areas MSF is organising a first emergency response by distributing food, water and first necessity items for 5,000 people.

MSF also has four long running clinics in other townships of Yangon, focusing on maternal and child healthcare, sexually transmitted diseases (STI) 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 (ART). 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.

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