UN calls for more support to the health sector in Myanmar

News and Press Release
Originally published
(Yangon: 10 December 2008): Continued needs for health support in the cyclone Nargis affected areas was on the agenda in the international donor meeting organized by the UN in Myanmar yesterday, followed by a field visit to health facilities today. Around 60 participants attended the meeting, including Heads of Diplomatic missions, UN agencies and International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs). Particular attention was given to the efforts required to improve Child and Maternal Health. Additionally, gaps in the Early Recovery sector for Nargis were addressed and an update was given on the final stages in the preparation of the three-year Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan (PONREPP).

The UN called for continued support in providing a successful recovery for the cyclone affected people. The UN Revised Appeal of USD 451 million required now stands at 67 per cent/USD 303 million funded. Agriculture and Early Recovery continues to be the least funded sectors with only 25% and 39% of the requirements met respectively, followed by 56% for the Health sector.

"The past seven months' experience of responding to the health needs of the cyclone affected population has shown that effective aid delivery can be achieved. At the same time, the cyclone has resulted in a significantly increased level of general vulnerability amongst the population. Investments and progress made to date are therefore at risk unless concerted and coordinated efforts are made to support the health system," said the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Bishow Parajuli.

The much feared 'second wave of death' has been prevented. Despite the devastations, there has been no significant increase in morbidity and mortality after the cyclone. Up to now, nearly 750,000 patient consultations have been undertaken by health providers in the Delta. Disease outbreaks and malnutrition have been averted through the establishment, in conjunction with the Myanmar Ministry of Health, of a Disease Surveillance Reporting System, enhanced outreach vaccination campaigns and a large-scale nutritional surveillance program.

Presentations by the UN and INGOs; Merlin and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Holland, indicated that more lives can be saved by increasing the support to humanitarian actors working with health.

"There are very positive results from projects related to prevention and treatment of diseases like Malaria and HIV/Aids in Myanmar. Still, many donors are not forthcoming with increased support to this country, I think mainly because of political considerations.

For this, the civilians are paying the price," said Frank Smithuis, MSF-Holland Country director.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) expressed that the needs in the health sector are greater than perhaps the international community is aware of.

"Our experience, both as a leading contributor to the Cyclone Nargis relief operation, and to other vital programmes like the Three Diseases Fund, demonstrates that it is possible to deliver aid effectively in this country, direct to those who need it, through the UN as well as national and international NGOs. It's not always straightforward, but it works," said the British Ambassador, Mark Canning.

He continued: "But the needs, particularly in health, are huge and have far exceeded the capacity of the current humanitarian effort. So we and our partners would like to see other international donors scale up their support. We'd also like to see the government of Myanmar increase its contribution to the health sector, not least because such a sign of commitment helps draw in further international assistance."

The UN also called for increased support in achieving the global Millennium Development Goals on reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. The UN agencies working in the health sector in Myanmar face a funding gap of minimum USD 18 million in 2009 to maintain and scale up child and maternal health interventions. Also, additional support is required to prevent and treat Tuberculosis, Malaria and HIV/Aids.

For further information, please contact Astrid Sehl, Communication Officer
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