Nargis cyclone, affecting several areas of Myanmar (also known as Burma), caused the death of at least 10,000 people and brought about severe physical damage. Three days after the cyclone, people in many parts of the country 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, 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.

Photo : Ana Maria Agullo Zurita, Reuters, courtesy . | A flooded village is seen in this aerial view near an airport in Yangon on 5 May 2008, after Cyclone Nargis slammed into Myanmar's main city on Saturday, ripping off roofs, felling trees and raising fears of major casualties.

MSF teams in Yangon are in the midst of emergency response, including distributing food, plastic sheeting and chlorinating water. 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 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 survived the cyclone, such as pagodas and schools. The priority here is to provide drinking water, food, and first emergency items. 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.

Photo : Ana Maria Agullo Zurita, Reuters, courtesy . | Monks walk past a tree that had been uprooted by Cyclone Nargis in Yangon in this picture taken on 4 May 2008.

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 in the country. 

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