A Malaysian Doctor Team Up With Swedish Colleagues To Help Children In Myanmar

On his own
initiative, a Malaysian doctor teamed up with two Swedish counterparts to help
educate some 300 young Myanmar
doctors in Yangon on aid and relief work in
the aftermath of cyclone Nargis.    
    Plastic
surgeon Dr Georges Varughese said he and his colleagues, Dr Charles Randquist
and Dr Stefan Amer, originally intended to treat and “do some
reconstructive surgery” for the wounded when they arrived on May 15.   
    However,
they weren’t allowed to do that and only Myanmar doctors were allowed to go
in to the worst-hit areas.   
    So they did
the next best thing. In the four days they were there, they located local
doctors and organised workshops to impart the experience of Dr Randquist and Dr
Amer.   
    The two
were the first few doctors to fly into Thailand to help victims of the Dec
2004 tsunami.
    But this
time, the team, like many other foreign aid workers, wasn’t allowed to go in to
the worst-hit Irrawady Delta.           “So we
did the next best thing we could… to impart the experience of Dr Randquist
and Dr Amer in Thailand
to young doctors who would be going in to the delta”,
    The
aftermath of a cyclone and tsunami were similar, said Dr Varughese.       
    So the
experience of the duo would be invaluable for those who would be going in to
provide frontline medical aid.   
    They
organised the session with the help of aid teams that had already arrived like
Mercy Malaysia,
Medical Sans Frontiere and the Myanmar Medical Association.
    
“With
their help, we located young doctors throughout Yangon
to give those briefings on what to expect when they were out there”.  
    The team
warned the young doctors, averaging between 23 and 25 years, of the danger of
snake bites, infection and respiratory diseases from polluted water, and burns.

    A rough
plan was also drawn up to establish a medical station with toilets to keep
waste away from water and food to prevent outbreaks of diseases like cholera.
    “They
need knowledge in some of the most basic stuff like how to set up a safe water
supply, how to make sure safe drinking water is not contaminated, and even how
to set up a tent that is safe from vermin”.
    “This
was the practical stuff which they have no experience in,” said Dr
Varughese.   
    Myanmar was devastated by Cyclone Nargis on
May 2 and 3, with over 78,000 people dead and 56,000 missing.
    Today, some
22 days after the catastrophe, floating bodies are still found in rivers and
ponds, and many people have to huddle under broken down buildings for shelter.
    But Dr
Varughese said Yangon was mostly cleared when
his team arrived.
    “There’s
something to be said about the Myanmar
spirit and resilience. Despite the magnitude of catastrophe, they had, through
their own initiative, cleared up so much and restored much function back (to Yangon)”.
    All they
need now, he said, is “a little bit more help and guidance” to focus
their aid and rescue work.
    On Friday,
United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon said Myanmar‘s military junta agreed to
allow all international aid workers, regardless of nationality, access to its
cyclone-affected areas.
    “Now
is the time for Malaysians to go in and help our neighbour”.
    “We
cannot afford to waste a single second. Children’s lives are at stake”.
    “Scaling
up the distribution of all resources, including funding and personnel to save
lives, must happen now if we are to prevent a further tragedy”.
    “The
children have suffered enough”, said Unicef Malaysia representative Youssouf
Oomar.
    To help,
please donate to the UNICEF Myanmar Children’s Cyclone Appeal 2008. Call
03-20959154 or visit the web site www.unicef.org/malaysia.   
    For as
little as RM54.40, you will be helping to provide almost 50 litres of
therapeutic milk to save the lives of severely malnourished children.

 

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