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.
International Women’s Day: “There are many girls suffering in silence, too shy to talk about health issues.”
Raju, 51, lives in Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. She works as a Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) volunteer supported by Community Partners International (CPI) and local partner Green Hill helping Rohingya refugee women and girls to access essential health services. To mark International Women’s Day, Raju spoke to Community Partners International about her work and community, and the health and hygiene challenges faced by women and girls.
“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.
An ER Doctor’s Testimony: “Every shift can seem like a tragedy novel. We try our best to save every life we can.”
When Dr. Ashim started working at the COVID-19 Isolation Unit at Sadar Hospital, Cox’s Bazar, in late 2020, Bangladesh was in the midst of a severe wave of COVID-19. “The pressure was very intense,” he explains. “We were overwhelmed with the number of patients. We had 20 beds but we were receiving more than 40 patients each day. We had to turn some patients away because we didn’t have enough space. The Emergency Department was also full.”
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.
Moments after the health post’s doors opened for the very first time on Thursday, December 2, 2021, eight-year-old Omme came in with her father Abul. She was suffering from abdominal pain and fever. The doctor on duty saw Omme immediately and provided care. “Everyone is helpful here,” remarked Abul. “The doctor listened carefully and gave my daughter medicine. I am happy.”
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.”