Fourteen days after cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar, needs remain immense in the Irrawaddy Delta.

Photo : Eyal Warshawski, MSF | MSF staff organising the distribution of relief materials in Myanmar.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are directly delivering medical assistance and relief supplies to tens of thousands of people. However, MSF urges for an immediate scaling up of the overall relief operation, which until now has been deployed far too slowly and is largely insufficient. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes, and many are gathered in makeshift camps. They are in urgent need of drinking water, food and other basic necessities. Elsewhere, survivors are living among the remains of their homes, surrounded by floodwater and dead bodies.

Photos : Eyal Warshawski, MSF.

MSF already had medical projects in Myanmar before cyclone Nargis hit. This has enabled MSF to immediately respond to the catastrophe in the Delta, bringing relief directly to survivors. Teams now work in over 20 different locations and are managing to push further into the outlying areas. They treat several hundred patients each day. In addition to wounds, the main health problems are respiratory infections, fever and diarrhea. So far, 140 tonnes of relief material were flown into the country. More than 275 tonnes of food has been distributed since the beginning of operations. "Although MSF is able to provide a certain level of direct assistance, the overall relief effort is clearly inadequate. Thousands of people affected by the cyclone are in a critical state and are in urgent need of relief. The aid effort is hampered by the government-imposed restriction on international staff working in the Delta region. For example: despite the fact that some MSF water and sanitation specialists have been granted visas to enter Myanmar, they have not been permitted to travel into the disaster area, where their expertise is desperately needed. An effective emergency operation of this magnitude requires coordinators and technical staff experienced in large-scale emergency response,” explains Bruno Jochum, director of operations for MSF. MSF calls on the government of Myanmar to allow for an immediate scale-up of the relief effort and free and unhindered access of international humanitarian staff to the affected areas.

Map of MSF interventions in Myanmar (2008). | Click image to open full-size map in new window.

MSF has worked in Myanmar since 1992. At present, 250 MSF staff are working in the Irawaddy Delta in the areas of Pyanpon, Bogaley, Haingyi, Pyinsalu, Tongwa, Labutta, Thingangon and Chaungzu. Some 30 international staff are mostly confined to Yangon. So far, MSF has flown in four cargo planes with emergency items including water and sanitation equipment, medical supplies, therapeutic food and other relief supplies.. A fifth plane is due to arrive in Yangon on May 16. MSF has been able to receive these goods in our warehouses in Yangon, from where they are further dispatched, by MSF teams to the logistics base in Pathein and Bogaley in the Delta.  MSF chartered boats are then used for onward transport into the disaster area.

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