|© UNICEF/ HQ08-0360/|
|UNICEF workers and members of the Myanmar Red Cross Society load supplies including essential drugs and first aid supplies onto a cart to deliver to temporary camps in the south-western Irrawaddy Division.|
By Sandar Linn
LAPUTTA TOWNSHIP, Myanmar, 23 May 2008 – Health worker Myint Myint Yi lost her home when the cyclone struck the small town of Laputta. Although her life has been turned upside down, she has put her misery aside for the moment in order to help others.
Equipped with a UNICEF-supplied insulated vaccine carrier, the local midwife now works as a roving vaccinator. She travels from shelter-to-shelter in Laputta to vaccinate children between the ages of nine-months and five-years-old against measles.
“The wind took away my roof and we had to run to a neighbour’s house to escape,” Myint Myint Yi said. “We waited until the cyclone stopped only to go back and find out that my house had totally collapsed. We have nothing left, but luckily my family survived.”
‘I cannot ignore them’
Despite her loss, Myint Myint Yi immediately went back to work – her township’s hospital was already packed with more than 500 people in the outpatient department.
“Although I am homeless now, I cannot ignore them,” she said. “Children need to get measles vaccines, since there could be a measles outbreak in a situation like this.”
Since the cyclone, Myint Myint Yi and other health workers have vaccinated more than 1,000 children against measles, with the support of UNICEF and Myanmar's Ministry of Health. In addition, at least 4,000 tetanus immunizations have been given to pregnant women and others in Laputta.
In Laputta alone, there are more 40,000 people living in 49 temporary shelters.
“Measles is a very contagious and critical infection,” said UNICEF Myanmar’s Chief of Health and Nutrition, Dr. Osamu Kunii. “It could cause massive deaths among children if an outbreak occurs in such settlements, where many children are not immune it.”
A preventable disease
Dense population in temporary settlements factors into any potential outbreak, including measles.
“Since measles is a preventable disease, we have to immunize as many children as quickly as possible,” he added.
Using medical supplies from UNICEF, the health workers in Laputta have been able to provide other vital aid to people living in shelters, such as treatments for fever and water-bourne diseases like diarrhoea.
UNICEF continues to send health supplies such as essential drug kits and first aid kits to villages, temporary shelters and hospitals in the affected areas.
“The health and the well-being of children and their families are the priority,” Myint Myint Yi said.
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