During the night, Myanmar military leaders took power in the country, declaring the state of emergency and suspending most of the communications through telephone and internet line for hours.
At the moment the situation is very precarious, as soon as the internet line was restored we heard the entire local staff acknowledging that they are fine, there are no problems in the Kawthaung area.
In this critical situation, we have decided to keep the doors of the Kawthaung Clinic open for patients who need our help, while we will suspend the Mobile Clinics in the coming days. This temporary measure was taken to ensure the safety of patients and our staff, to prevent the gatherings that occur during mobile clinics in the villages from being misunderstood with meetings for political purposes, endangering the most fragile people.
It is difficult to predict what will happen in the next few days. We will continue with our work to improve the health of the poorest people who do not have access to the Burmese health service.
Since the Coronavirus pandemic began, MedAcross has responded to local needs in the shortest time possible.
Our Kawthaung clinic is the only clinical facility open, in addition to the hospital, in the city. From the endo of March 2020 our MedAcross staff has adopted the protocols of physical distancing and deep sanitation. In this way we can guarantee care for the poorest families in the area and to target potential Covi-19 patients in Quarantine Centers organized by the government.
Since May we have been distributing Coronavirus protection kits to the poorest population in southern Myanmar, THESE ARE OUR NUMBERS:
Here is a short video that shows you a part of our actions to manage the ongoing pandemic:
In the Kawthaung district, the first cases of Coronavirus have been confirmed, if the pandemic were to spread in the region, the few health resources available would be exhausted within a few days.
Kawthaung hospital is the center of reference for all Coronavirus cases in the district, despite being without intensive care, without ventilators and with only 4 beds for the most serious patients. For these reasons, it is essential to concentrate all efforts on prevention to avoid an announced disaster.
MedAcross has decided to act in a capillary way, in collaboration with the health authorities of the region, the Red Cross and Istituto Oikos, to bring timely aid where there is the greatest need. Here is what we are doing:
If the pandemic were to spread uncontrollably, many people would die without any hospital care. You can help us by donating and following our activity!
If the epidemic arrives in countries like Myanmar, it won't be impossible to control: over 200,000 inhabitants live in the province of Kawthaung and there is no intensive care in the reference hospital!
As an association formed by doctors, we monitored the situation of the virus, activating preventive safety measures for the pandemic in progress. It's essential to continue our free health care for the poorest families who are more fragile during the health crisis.
We have alerted our Kawthaung staff to follow the rules recommended by the World Health Organization.
HOW WE ARE ACTING:
On MedAcross's spontaneous initiative, the staff received specific training to recognize the symptoms of Coronavirus and educate the population to change their habits to prevent the virus from spreading. In places like these, prevention is the only possible way, not being able to count on efficient healthcare.
In February 2020, we realized a new, big goal: to visit patients from the Andaman Islands, where there are no hospitals or pharmacies. As a first mission, we chose the island of Makyone Galet, 130 kilometers from Kawthaung. The families that live on this island have been fishing for generations, but intensive fishing from neighboring countries is threatening their environment, making them extremely poor.
When a resident of these islands gets sick, he has to go to the mainland to buy a medicine. Usually patients make the expensive trip to the hospital only when their condition is extremely critical. This unfortunately means that it is often too late to solve the problem.
To carry out this project, our medical staff from Kawthaung started the day at 6 in the morning, traveling two hours on the road with the Mobile Clinic to reach the coast. From there we embarked all medical equipment on a boat to reach the island. It was not an easy path. The sea can be very rough if you come across a sudden storm (a very probable reality in a monsoon climate). Arriving in Makyone Galet we found the local community to welcome us and helped to unload the bulky medical supplies. We set up a visit point under the shelter of a canopy. In one day we managed to visit 95 patients by providing many of them with their first structured medical examination, complete with a health booklet in which to record all the follow-ups of the next visits. To understand the importance of our intervention, read the story of Nilar, whom we met in Makyone Galet.
Specchio dei Tempi, at our side since the first day, believed and supported us in this new challenge to treat the most isolated people in Myanmar.
Luca Cordero di Montezemolo is the president of MedAcross' Scientific Committee and is a Pediatry professor at the University of Turin.
In October 2019 Luca decided to leave for Myanmar to closely observe the daily work of our new Burmese doctors: Thin Thin and Hsu Nandar.
Here is his account: "Today I am leaving with the Mobile Clinic to reach the village of Lone Phaw, on the border with Thailand, the journey is long and the day begins at half past six in the morning. The nurses and doctors talk and hum throughout the trip, making the two-hour off-road journey to the village pleasant. When we arrive there are already about thirty patients waiting for us. We set up the waiting room under a canopy by the river that separates us from Thailand and we have all the medical material to start the visits. The doctors and nurses divide the tasks so that they can visit all the patients, who have increased in the meantime. The visits last all day and I am pleased to note that the doctors, despite their young age, have excellent skills in managing patients. They are careful in understanding each patient's illness and in providing adequate care. The inhabitants of Lone Phaw and nearby plantations cannot afford to buy the medicines they need and live in places so remote that they can't get them (imagine you have to walk 80 km to buy an antibiotic!). When we visit chronic patients in Clinica Mobile, we provide them with the treatment that can last until our return, which takes place after about a month. Insulin for diabetics is critical, but the costs of sustaining these treatments are our biggest challenge."
Myanmar is the poorest country in Southeast Asia. In the Tanintharyi region, south of the country, the vast rain forests have been cleared to make way for oil palm plantations. 65% of the population lives in these places, mostly plantation workers and their families, without any kind of infrastructure. Here 30 thousand people live in wooden stilt houses on the sides of the plantation, without roads and separated from the first pharmacy or hospitals by hours of walking.
In March 2019, thanks to the contribution of Specchio dei Tempi, we start the Mobile Clinic project. In this way, we are able to visit 8 rural sites every month, which are two to four hours away by car from Kauthaung, our headquarters.
With this intervention we are able to provide free visits and medicines to 1000 patients every month who would otherwise be completely excluded from health services.
In one year we have treated children suffering from malnutrition and respiratory problems, provided antimalarial prophylaxis to entire families and managed many traumas caused by heavy hours of work on the plantations.
MedAcross started working in Myanmar in October 2016, renovating the Basic Health Clinic in Kawthaung which currently has over 3,000 patients treated, with an average of 50 visits per day.
The Kawthaung district is located in the southernmost region of Myanmar, on the border with Thailand. Of the over 200,000 inhabitants of the district, around 30,000 come from different regions of Myanmar with the hope of finding work in Ranong, the first Thai city on the border. Only 35% of the population lives in the city and can easily reach hospitals, clinics and clinics, while the remaining 65% live in rural areas, where health facilities are few and it's hard to find a pharmacy.
This region is among the poorest in the country and the costs of health services are prohibitive for most of the population. For this reason, we started our free medical treatment program in Kawthaung because where a hand is needed we put our heart into it.
In Kawthaung, in the extreme south of Myanmar, MedAcross works to guarantee the right to health for all.
In this area, sometimes extreme poverty makes it difficult for families to cope with daily expenses and access to healthcare is often at risk. In addition, the high school dropout rate turns into other serious social plagues: prostitution and the spread of HIV. The low level of schooling produces generations of illiterate people for whom it is impossible to find a decent job. In this situation, the only chance of survival is to sell your body but the consequences are devastating, especially in a society where AIDS still constitutes a great stigma.
The clinical activity will be officially started on March 5, 2017. At the MedAcross Basic Health Clinic, patients will be assisted by local doctors for complete visits and will be able to collect the drugs for free at the internal pharmacy. The nurses will also support the inclusion of HIV patients in the state program that provides life-saving drugs weekly, as well as managing the Nutritional Program, an economic support that allows families of patients in difficulty to buy healthy products and drinking water.