Health

Volunteers step in to fight Myanmar’s COVID-19 surge

By Lynn Bo Bo

Yangon, Myanmar, Oct 20 (efe-epa).- With one of the worst healthcare systems in the world, the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar is confronting a surge in COVID-19 cases with the help of an army of community volunteers.

Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, is in lockdown with a stay-at-home order in place to control the spread of infections. The area has become the outbreak epicenter of the country, which has accumulated more than 37,200 cases and 914 deaths, according to government figures on Monday. Most of these cases have emerged only since last month.  

With health workers overwhelmed by the number of COVID-19 patients within a fragile health system, thousands of frontline volunteers are now playing an important role in fighting Myanmar’s epidemic.

Kyaw Zin Tun, is a 21-year-old community volunteer from Moe Saytana rescue team, which transports infected and suspected patients using seven ambulances in Yangon’s Yankin Township.

“To be honest, we are scared. But we continue doing this charitable work, thinking (of) ourselves as people who are already infected,” he said.

The virus threat also hasn’t dampened the passion of Aye Nyein Thiri Kyaw, 29, who has volunteered in the fight against COVID-19 since March.

“The main challenge is how long we can withstand COVID-19 with our own forces as our country is a developing country,” said Aye Nyein Thiri, who volunteers with Yangon Region Youth Affairs Committee (YRYAC).

The YRYAC has nearly 500 volunteers helping around COVID-19 facilities in Yangon and the committee has recruited more than 1,400 who spend most of their days delivering foods and supplies, collecting garbage, disinfecting and taking care of the needs of patients.

“I am not worried about being infected with COVID-19 by volunteering. Even if I am infected, I have already helped many people,” Aye Nyein Thiri added.

Meanwhile, the We Love Yangon community-based charity organization, which has sub-groups in every 44 out of Yangon region’s 45 townships, is also stepping up to help battle the outbreak.

At first, they sought donors in the local community and supported the needs of volunteer groups, quarantine centers and facilities, but as infections increased, they founded a COVID-19 center that can accommodate 600 patients with the support of donors.

“We have noticed that both patients and volunteers have stress and anxiety. We are trying to support not only physical health care but also mental wellbeing,” said Mg Mg Aye, a central executive committee member of We Love Yangon.

Later, they named the site the ‘Happy COVID Center.’

The World Health Organization ranked Myanmar as having the worst healthcare system in the world in 2000, the last time it published the ratings.

Until the beginning of democratic reforms in 2011, the ruling military government had allocated around 0.5 percent of GDP to health care.

In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the government allocated around 1.18 trillion kyat ($912 million) to the system. EFE-EPA

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