A midwife puts the health of children and women before her needs
LAPUTTA TOWNSHIP, 25 May 2008 – Midwife Myint Myint Yi’s life has turned upside down ever since her house, tucked away in a small riverside town in Laputta, took an unforgivable beating when Cyclone Nargis pummeled Myanmar’s Irrawaddy delta on 2 and 3 May.
“The wind took away my roof and my family and I had to run to a neighbor’s house to escape,” said Myint Myint Yi. “We waited until the cyclone stopped just to go back and find that our house was totally flattened. We have nothing left but luckily my family survived.”
But for the moment, Myint Myint Yi has put her misery aside, focusing all her attention instead on the health needs of children and pregnant women who survived Cyclone Nargis.
A roving vaccinator
The day after the disaster, Myint Myint Yi took herself back to work to help her township’s hospital treat and care for cyclone survivors from her community. The hospital’s outpatient department was packed with more than 500 people.
Today, Myint Myint Yi is working as a roving vaccinator. With an insulated UNICEF vaccine carrier in hand, she travels from camp to camp in Laputta to vaccinate children, as young as nine months to five years old, against measles; and pregnant women and injured cyclone survivors against tetanus.
“The health and the well-being of children and their families are a priority,” Myint Myint Yi said. “Although I am homeless now, I cannot ignore them. Children need to get their measles vaccine since there could be a measles outbreak in a situation like this.”
Tackling measles and tetanus
With support from UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, Myint Myint Yi and other health workers have vaccinated more than 1,000 children against measles. In addition, at least 4,000 tetanus immunisation have been given to pregnant women and the injured in Laputta.
UNICEF is concerned about the health risks that some 40,000 people living in 49 temporary shelters in Laputta could possibly be confronted with.
“Measles is a very contagious and a critical infection,” said UNICEF Myanmar's Chief of Health and Nutrition Dr. Osamu Kunii. “It can cause innumerable number of deaths among children who are not immunised against it if an outbreak occurs in such settlements.”
Preventing a possible killer outbreak
Dense population in temporary settlements is one of the factors for any potential outbreak, including measles which was already widespread in all age groups of Myanmar’s people before the disaster happened, said Dr. Kunii.
“But luckily measles is a preventable disease, so we can save lives by immunising as many children as quickly as possible,” he said.
In addition to measles immunisation, health workers are also treating people living at camps for minor illnesses such as fever and diarrhea, using medical supplies provided by UNICEF.
UNICEF continues to send health supplies such as essential drug kits and first aid kits to the villages, temporary shelters and hospitals in the affected areas.
Myanmar Cyclone Crisis 2008