Lashio Diocese’s Covid-19 response team gives food to needy people in Shan state on May 21. (Photo: Lashio Diocese's social communication office)
The United Nations says the Covid-19 situation in Myanmar is particularly concerning as it has a weak healthcare system and humanitarian problems.
In a policy briefing about the pandemic’s impact on Southeast Asia released on July 30, the UN said Myanmar is among the countries considered vulnerable.
Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines and Timor-Leste are also considered vulnerable among the 11 nations of Southeast Asia.
“The situation is particularly concerning for Myanmar and the Philippines, which have pre-existing humanitarian caseloads,” the report said.
Myanmar has 8.6 physicians and 10 nurses and midwives per 10,000 people, falling short of the World Health Organization’s recorded minimum, according to the preparedness dashboard mentioned in the UN report.
Health expenditure in Myanmar was just 5 percent of GDP in 2016, according to a UN report.
Critics say the country has a weak public health system and limited healthcare expenditure and skilled health workers
Myanmar’s public health system has all but collapsed due to mismanagement by the military over the last six decades.
The UN is also concerned about people in conflict-torn areas of Myanmar as they are particularly at risk amid the pandemic.
It said an escalation in the fighting in Rakhine state has widened “the trust deficit in the peace process and undermined the civilian leadership’s efforts to promote an inclusive Covid-19 response."
About 130,000 internally displaced persons from various communities are confined in camps in Rakhine state in western Myanmar, while more than 800,000 — mostly Rohingya who were forced to flee in 2017 — are refugees in Bangladesh, according to the UN report.
Over 86,000 people displaced by ongoing fighting between the military and the Arakan Army remain in camps in Rakhine and Chin states.
Across Myanmar, more than 312,000 displaced people are in Rakhine, Chin, Kachin, Shan and Karen states
Protect all communities
The UNHCR and the World Food Programme have teamed up to deliver 20,000 Covid-19 test kits to the government of Myanmar.
The UN said the test kits, which were procured and delivered by UNICEF, arrived in Yangon on July 30 as part of a broader UN provision of over 95,000 test kits to Ministry of Health and Sports.
Cecile Fradot, representative ad interim for UNHCR in Myanmar, said the pandemic has impacted everyone and placed vulnerable communities at heightened risks. Continued vigilance is still required, including wearing masks, physical distancing and maintaining hygiene practices.
“The delivery of the test kits is critical to support the government of Myanmar to cut the chains of transmissions of the virus and protect all communities, including those displaced by conflict,” Fradot said on July 30.
Myanmar has reported 353 confirmed cases of Covid-19 including six deaths and 295 recoveries, according to health officials.