Boosting Assistance for Medical Teams, Clinics Serving Affected Areas

Following an extensive in-country assessment by Direct Relief staff and confirmation of in-country logistics, Direct Relief has expanded its humanitarian assistance to Myanmar with the first in a series of planned airlifts of essential medical items to be used by Burmese doctors deploying to hardest-hit areas and to clinics operated by a partner international nongovernmental organization.

The most recent infusion of aid, transported on June 3 and valued at over $200,000 wholesale, was in response to urgent requests presented to Direct Relief staff who were in country last week. The shipment includes anti-infectives, wound dressings, and surgical supplies. Additional airlifts being prepared for delivery next week will contain, among other things, the pre-mixed rice-based oral rehydration solution Ceralyte. The contents are being assembled in response to unfolding community assessments conducted by Burmese physicians deployed from the professional medical association that requested Direct Relief’s assistance. The value of Direct Relief’s material assistance allocated to these shipments exceeds $1 million.

An additional $163,000 in financial assistance has been provided to partner nongovernmental organization Marie Stopes International, which operates 20 in-country clinics, and to Thai-border-based colleague nongovernmental organizations that Direct Relief has long supported. These groups have ramped up activities in response to the cyclone’s devastation.

Partnering with Professional Medical, Business Associations. Direct Relief’s assistance has been requested by the Myanmar Medical Association (MMA), which was established in 1949, and is the only professional body of medically qualified doctors in Myanmar. MMA is a national association organization of 8,000 physicians with 80 branches throughout the country.

In response to the cyclone, the MMA is mobilizing its members on short medical tours into the hard-hit Irrawaddy and Yangon divisions. Direct Relief’s shipment to MMA will equip these teams with critically needed medicines and supplies. After an extensive briefing with Direct Relief staff, MMA’s president provided Direct Relief with a specifically requested list of needed items to assist the group in its expansive deployment of local physicians to the affected areas.

CDA, a leading association of in-country businesses, also has repurposed its network and resources to deliver humanitarian aid to affected communities. It has asked for assistance to help rebuild damaged health facilities throughout the affected region. The association has experience with development and infrastructure improvement programs; recently, CDA began work on water purification programs in conjunction with the NGOs Thirst-Aid and UNICEF.

All three groups are coordinating with a variety of nongovernmental organizations and the country’s Ministry of Health to provide assistance.

Members of Australian Aid International (AAI), a partner NGO with deep experience in complex emergencies and whose members are physicians specially trained in field emergency medicine, have been granted access into the country. They are providing treatment, sharing their expertise with Burmese doctors, and helping to oversee distribution of Direct Relief’s medical material aid. Direct Relief granted AAI $25,000 shortly after the cyclone struck to support these activities.

Community-level Financial Assistance. Additional financial assistance is also being provided to support villages’ and townships’ recovery efforts. These funds will be self-managed at the community level through a strict protocol to ensure community members’ involvement in identifying needs, planning small-scale investments, transparency in expenditures, and personal accountability among community members.

Direct Relief continues to work through the particular circumstances in Myanmar to ensure that assistance is targeted at—and reaches—the people who need it most. An estimated 2.4 million people were affected by the cyclone, and many are in dire need of aid.

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