COVID-19: LWF on frontlines of response in rural Myanmar

In IDP camps in Rakhine State, loudspeakers are used to broadcast COVID-19 prevention messaging in Rohingya and other local languages. All Photos: LWF/Myanmar

Working on prevention messaging with UN, partner communities and local health authorities

(LWI) - As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to spread globally, developing countries with internally displaced populations, high labor migration, and weak health systems are especially vulnerable. In response to these challenges in Myanmar, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is collaborating with partners on the front line of prevention campaigns in Rakhine, Chin, and Kayin states.

With limited testing available in Myanmar and only one existing diagnostic lab in the country, there are fears that the pandemic may be spreading invisibly. LWF partner communities, including migrant source communities in border areas and camps for internally displaced populations (IDPs) are especially at risk.

LWF is working in the field with over 220 partner communities, including IDP camps, and is collaborating closely with state, township, and local authorities to respond quickly and compassionately to the pandemic. This includes reallocating resources in response to requests from partner communities and health authorities.

Billboards are erected with information in local languages about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections

In remote Chin State, LWF has assisted the Mindat Department of Health in educating the public about how to protect themselves and others. In addition, the health department has requested assistance in procuring necessary medical equipment and supplies.

Kayin State is facing an influx of migrant workers from neighboring Thailand, and many returning to communities in Hlaingbwe and Kyainseikgyi townships lack basic knowledge about the disease, while also downplaying the importance of self-quarantine. Hence, LWF is working with health authorities to disseminate local-language information, encouraging communities to take simple preventative measures. The authorities have also requested assistance with procuring medical equipment and supplies.

In Ann Township, Rakhine State, while raising awareness in partner communities, LWF is also meeting with the township health department for emergency preparation, community awareness, and procurement needs.

Posters are distributed in local languages with information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections

LWF is the main coordinating agency for eight IDP camps in Rakhine State. Since the start of 2020, increased armed conflict has brought in hundreds of additional families to urban centers in search of safety and shelter. Thus, in highly vulnerable locations such as Khaung Doke Khar IDP camp, LWF Myanmar shares COVID-19 awareness messaging in local languages on how to use masks, how to wash hands, and how to protect oneself from the virus. In many sites, this is a challenge due to prolonged drought, so water is not available for basic hygiene.

Staff are sharing audio messages with camp leaders on what COVID-19 is, how it spreads, and prevention. This includes awareness messaging in Rohingya and other local languages, provided by the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR). "The camp leaders downloaded messaging on tablets we provided, and they share the audio messages around the camp using loudspeakers. This activity started in March. And also, we plan to distribute face masks, soap, and gloves to communities,” says Nan Oo Hlaing, Camp Coordination and Camp Management Officer.

Donations are urgently requested to support this vital COVID-19 prevention work.

 

 

 

 

By Chit Su Wai Aung, Communications Coordinator, LWF Myanmar