Between 2012 and 2020, Myanmar (Burma) made extraordinary gains against malaria. The number of confirmed cases fell by almost 88% and the reported number of deaths fell by 98% (1). In 2020, only 10 deaths in Myanmar were officially attributed to malaria (2). This was the result of a coordinated multi-stakeholder prevention, control and elimination strategy supported by sustained local and international investment. But these gains are now under threat due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the February 2021 coup.
Myanmar’s Humanitarian Crisis: “Because of conflict, people can’t move freely, making it difficult to get food and medical supplies.”
In Kayin (Karen) State, southeast Myanmar (Burma), renewed conflict between the Myanmar military and ethnic nationality organizations has displaced thousands of people and created a humanitarian crisis against the backdrop of a rising wave of COVID-19. With support from the Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT), Community Partners International (CPI) is helping local partner the Karen Ethnic Health Organizations Consortium (KEHOC) to provide displaced and conflict-affected women, newborns and young children with essential nutrition support, safe water, and hygiene and sanitation.
“I had to rely on my husband since we married, so now I am happy to earn money. Now, we are saving for my son's future and it makes me feel so pleased.” Eindray
Eindray, 28, lives in Rakhine State, Myanmar, with her husband and five-year old son. She is one of 30 women enrolled in a livelihood project implemented by Community Partners International partner Precious Lady, that teaches sewing and handicraft skills, provides them with sewing machines and raw materials, offers basic sales and marketing training, and helps them to access markets where they can sell their products.
Voices From the Pandemic: “Thirty to forty people in our village died from a lack of oxygen, including my grandmother.”
“My grandmother’s blood oxygen level dropped to 80% and she couldn’t eat or drink. At the end, she was so weak that she couldn’t breathe from the oxygen tank. Losing a family member in front of my eyes really made me understand the danger of COVID-19.”
In early October 2021, Elizabeth’s whole family came down with COVID-19 in their village in Ayeyarwady Region, Myanmar. The country was in the midst of a devastating third wave that killed many thousands of people. The health system, already shattered by political unrest, was overwhelmed.
On January 2, 2022, five days after the first confirmed cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant were detected in Myanmar, a new oxygen generation plant supported by Community Partners International and the Access to Health Fund opened at a facility operated by the Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW) in Hpa-An, Kayin (Karen) State.
In Myanmar’s Naga Self-Administered Zone, crop yields for farmers practicing traditional slash-and burn agriculture have been falling due to climate change and deforestation. With support from a private donor, Community Partners International (CPI) launched a pilot project to help communities to adopt new and sustainable farming practices and improve their food security.
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed Myanmar’s schools in June 2020, Htar’s nine-year-old daughter Tweltar reacted as most children would. “At the start, she was happy that she didn't need to go to school and could play at home much more than before,” Htar explains. But, as school closures lengthened from weeks into months, Tweltar changed her mind. “Gradually, she realized that her school had been closed for a long time and she wanted to start learning again."
Yan Win Soe, founder of the Myanmar Community Health Society (MCHS), knows well the personal tragedies that the third wave of COVID-19 unleashed on the people of Myanmar. “My elder sister got COVID-19 and died due to lack of oxygen at the critical time.”
In April, conflict in Chin State, western Myanmar, pushed villagers over the border into India where the Delta variant of COVID-19 was spreading rapidly. Soon after they returned, COVID-19 cases in Chin State began to spike. Due to Myanmar’s ongoing political crisis, the local public health system had little capacity to respond. Community Partners International (CPI) and local partner the Hualngo Land Development Organization (HLDO) mobilized to provide COVID-19 prevention and care to people in desperate need.
The B.K. Kee Foundation and other philanthropists have set up a $1.1 million match fund to help save lives in Myanmar (Burma) in the midst of a catastrophic surge in COVID-19 cases. The fund will double-match donations to Asia-focused California nonprofit Community Partners International's Myanmar COVID-19 SOS campaign while match funds last.