New project: Helping hospitals in Myanmar prepare for disasters

UK-Med was delighted to be invited to the online launch of the three-year Integrated Hospital Disaster Preparedness project in Myanmar. We’re working on the project in collaboration with Humanity & Inclusion (HI), the Ministry of Health and many stakeholders across Myanmar.

The group were welcomed by Dr Thida Hla DyDG from the Ministry of Health who introduced the event by saying:

“Thank you for your participation. Myanmar is prone to disaster such as flood, earthquake and so it is important to prepare the disaster, in spite of facing the pandemic. Drills and preparedness activities have been ongoing but health infrastructure must be well prepared. Thank you to UK-Med, HI and BMZ for allowing us to expand the activities to more hospitals for three years.”

Country Director of Humanity & Inclusion Jerome Bobin gave thanks to funders BMZ and Germany for the funding over three years to give the time to really make an impact. He said:

“Combining the quality of the technical advisors and the commitment of all the Myanmar stakeholders we can give the Myanmar population the safety and security they deserve. For all stakeholders, this is your project and we are here to support”.

Health Director Dr Lina Echeverri gave thanks to the Ministry of Health and Humanity & Inclusion for trusting UK-Med with this important project. Lina went on to give a background to UK-Med, our history and areas of expertise and interest, including infectious diseases outbreaks, natural disasters, complex humanitarian emergencies, disaster risk reduction and climate change.

A strong history of partnership working

Lina went on to explain UK-Med and HI’s history of strong partnership working as part of the WHO’s EMT network. As well as previously supporting mass casualty training in Myanmar, UK-Med has broad experience in the following areas that make it well placed to provide technical advice on the project:

  • Providing specialist staff
  • Emergency preparedness (e.g. Rwanda)
  • Support to WHO, MoH and other agencies/stakeholders to develop standard operating procedures and clinical guidelines pertinent to a specific response
  • Response coordination
  • Training and capacity building
  • Knowledge sharing and mentoring of national staff
  • On the job supervision and direct clinical care

Lina went on to explain UK-Med’s experience in all sections of the emergency preparedness cycle, highlighting UK-Med’s expertise in preparedness and response, and its aim to gain more experience on recovery and mitigation.

Introducing the project team

Dr Ashok Sharma, who will be UK-Med’s Health Advisor in Myanmar, was introduced to the group (see below). Dr Sharma is currently based in Mumbai and expressed how he is looking forward to working with everyone.

The group then heard from Dr Luca Ragazzoni from CRIMEDIM, world leading research Center in Emergency and Disaster medicine based in Italy. The organisation has been a designated World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Training and Research in Emergency and Disaster Medicine since August 2016. Dr Luca Ragazzoni explained how CRIMEDIM will be lending significant operational research experience and supporting in the delivery of simulations to test learning.

Humanity & Inclusion’s Eva Lecat (Myanmar Operations Coordinator) then introduced various HI staff members who will be working on the project. The team presented the project activities, target beneficiaries, detailed project timeline and the focus of the project on the ensuring the most vulnerable groups (including women, children and people with disabilities) are thought of during all of the emergency planning stages.

The UK Emergency Medical Team conducts trainig at Mandalay General Hospital in 2019.
The UK Emergency Medical Team conducts training at Mandalay General Hospital in 2019.

Overcoming the challenges of COVID-19

There were contributions from various stakeholders:

Professor Maw Maw Oo commented that the collaboration between UK-Med, HI and Yangon General Hospital had been very well received in the past. He also expressed the ambitions to develop an EMT in Myanmar. There were plans for starting work on this during 2020 but there have been a lot of problems given COVID in running regional drills, but there is a hope that this can restart in 2021.

Dr Thant Zin Naing, Spinal Surgeon at Yangon General Hospital commented that the activities relating to treating spinal cord injury were of particular interest. Currently, there are two main problems in effective treatment – limited ICU resources and the lack of community-based rehab programmes. Most of the spinal cord patients live far away from the main hospitals, so supporting their recovery at home is a significant challenge. A focus on supporting community-based programmes would be welcome.

Eva closed the meeting by reflected that timeframes have been slightly delayed due to the pandemic, but all members of the group are very much looking forward to working on this important project. Thanks were given to all who are working at the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis. As we’ve seen with Beirut, disasters can hit at any time, and so a key challenge of COVID is to simultaneously ensure communities are resilient should a disaster hit.

UK-Med is proud to be part of this vital project that will save countless lives and leave a lasting impact for the people of Myanmar.

Dr Ashok Sharma, UK-Med

Dr Ashok Sharma

UK-Med Health Adviser in Myanmar

Dr Ashok is a medical doctor with a Masters degree in International Public Health and a PG Diploma in Hospital Administration. He carries with him 25 years of humanitarian experience in emergency, transition and development contexts (in Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Libya, South Sudan, Nigeria, Darfur Sudan, Kuwait, Papua New Guinea, Liberia and Bahrain).

He has experience working both at field level and leading as an advisor and director, steering large health and nutrition projects with funding portfolios of up to $35 million per year. He has taken part in coordination, policy development and dialogues, large-scale operational and action research projects, local partner management, capacity building, training and mentoring, programme direction and implementation, and leading large country teams.

Additionally Dr Ashok brings with him diverse experience of projects focused on disaster risk reduction, health service delivery (with main emphasis on MNCH and RH components), health infrastructure development and research, education, WASH and cash programming.

Can you donate to support our life-saving work in Myanmar and around the world?

Jerome Bobin, Country Director, Humanity & Inclusion
Online attendees at the project launch event.
Dr Lina Echeverri, Health Director, UK-Med

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