UK-Med launches a three-year project in Myanmar with partners Humanity & Inclusion
Myanmar has the highest risk of disaster in the Asia-Pacific region, regularly experiencing severe natural disasters including cyclones, floods and droughts. Poverty, poor infrastructure, and ongoing conflict compounded by a difficult democratic transition following decades of military rule places further strain on an already fragile health system.
UK-Med has worked in Myanmar with partners Humanity & Inclusion for a number of years, supporting disaster preparedness training.
Liz Wennington, Emergency Nurse Practitioner and UK-Med member was part of the training team that travelled to Mandalay and Yangon last year and highlights some of the challenges facing emergency healthcare workers in Myanmar.
“I was absolutely thrilled to be selected to go to Myanmar providing technical support in Disaster Preparedness and Mass Casualty management planning.
What amazed me most was the “can do” attitude of all the doctors and nurses I met. There was no such thing as a hospital divert when there is no hospital bed. One reply was “We will make beds even if the patient has to be admitted onto benches and chairs.”
Medical wards that have capacity for 60 beds often accommodate 80. The staff are supported by medical students and relatives who will wash and feed family members and act as a porter to transport to X-ray or CT departments. They worked in conditions that to my eyes were very challenging and with a lack of basic equipment like sphygmomanometers and oxygen monitoring equipment.
The various clinical departments tended to work in isolation, so we worked on facilitating a more collaborative approach during Major Incident Management. There is no public ambulance service in Myanmar and patients are bought in by ‘charity ambulances’, which sometimes can be a tuk-tuk. The hospitals had their own ambulances for transfer of patients to other parts of the hospital because the hospital was large and sprawling, with many different buildings.”
As part of the three-year project we will:
- Work with five hospitals to enhance their resilience to disasters, through hospitals disaster preparedness,
- Improve hospital staff’s ability to cope with an influx of patients (as a result of an epidemic or natural disaster) whilst maintaining regular health care services.
- Support 800 frontline staff ensuring knowledge transfer and disaster response procedures are in place.
- Provide strategic training for 20 senior health care leaders who will be empowered to deliver further training to their team and to ensure patients admitted receive timely and appropriate care.
We’re delighted to be working on a longer-term project that will allow us to provide ongoing support to health system strengthening – with our thanks to the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)F for funding this important work.
In the event of a disaster, effective coordination between key responders saves lives. Multi agency coordination and community empowerment ensure communities are better prepared, able to respond and have increased resilience to disasters.
We aim to address these issues through a series of simulation exercises which will bring together key stakeholders to ensuring proper decision-making process, disaster response to all hazards are well structured, tested, and learning and feedback in properly incorporated.
Pre-hospital care is a key missing component of the emergency health system in Myanmar. We will train over 400 ambulance volunteers, rescue volunteers, fire brigade and police staff in the most at-risk urban townships on how to respond following a disaster.
Behaviour change towards people with disabilities:
An important focus of the training will be behaviour and attitude change towards people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups including women and older persons. In the wake of natural disasters and conflict, already vulnerable groups are often at even higher risk of exploitation and abuse. We’re delighted to be working on a longer-term project that will allow us to provide ongoing support to health system strengthening.