The COVID-19 pandemic poses a serious threat to people all over the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on 11th March 2020 and Myanmar reported its first confirmed cases 12 days later, on 23rd March 2020. The Government of Myanmar has put in place a number of mitigating measures including: increasing testing and treatment capacity for COVID-19; providing quarantine facilities; restricting public gatherings however the virus continues to present a multitude of risks that are multifaceted in Rakhine State and need to be urgently managed through prevention and response preparedness efforts.
How is MA-UK’s Responding
It is MA-UK’s mandate to ensure that the most vulnerable communities, regardless of background, ethnicity, religion, gender or age, to have access to adequate healthcare, hygiene items and information on COVID-19, to contribute to the containment of a potential COVID-19 pandemic outbreak With support from our headquarters in London and the Humanitarian Assistance & Resilience Programme (HARP) Facility, MA-UK is currently implementing a COVID-19 response in 17 villages in Sittwe Township and 36 healthcare centers. Our response focuses on installing handwashing stations, improving water supply and distributing hygiene items to reduce the risk of disease transmission, alongside incorporating Ministry of Health and WHO messaging into awareness raising activities to be undertaken within communities. This response is being implemented in partnership with two local organisations: Treasure Land Development Association (TLDA) and Action Based Community Development (ABCD). This response is being coordinated thoroughly with other humanitarian actors including UN agencies, INGOs/NGOs and the Rakhine State Government.
The target villages were identified based on the results of Remote Rapid Needs Assessment. This assessment considered several factors in the prioritisation of villages such as; limited presence of humanitarian actors, limited knowledge of COVID-19, inadequate handwashing facilities, strained water supply, limited access to COVID-19 prevention materials/equipment and challenges related to restriction of movement. MA-UK also considered the preparedness level of Sittwe General Hospital and Township Hospital to confront the situation in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in Sittwe Township. Peripheral health centres will also be supported as part of this intervention, in order to build preparedness of medical facilities in remote villages which are home to many IDPs who cannot access the larger medical institutions in the area.
What is the overall objective and the key envisaged outcomes of the project?
To contribute to the containment of a potential COVID-19 outbreak in Sittwe Township. The planned impact is COVID-19 preventive measures and knowledge base will be enhanced to reduce vulnerable people in countries with limited health services systems
- Improved hygiene and social distancing practises by targeted vulnerable communities
- Improved access to basic supplies and appropriate medical services to vulnerable communities in targeted countries
What are key activities carried out under this project initiative?
By the end of July 2020, MA-UK will have:
- Distributed over 3,800 COVID-19 hygiene kits to households, monasteries and mosques in 17 villages
- Constructed 49 handwashing stations in communal areas in 17 villages
- Completed Phase 1 of a COVID-19 awareness campaign delivered through existing community structures with remote ToT of COVID-19 awareness training, installation of COVID-19 posters and billboards, audio campaigns and leaflet distributions in 17 villages and 36 Health centres in Sittwe Township
- Delivered COVID-19 protection supplies to township, sub-township, sub-rural and rural health centres across Sittwe Township, including 100 PPE kits and COVID-19 hygiene items in 36 target health centres
MA-UK will continue until August 2020:
- The rehabilitation of existing water supply infrastructures in 17 target villages; including pond cleaning and tube wells/hand pump rehabilitation
- Support 18 Sub-Rural Health centres with latrine repairs, water tank and handwashing installation.
- Implement Phase 2 COVID-19 prevention awareness in 17 villages and 18 Sub-Rural Health centres through audio, billboards and leaflets
- Provide 18 Sub-Rural Health centres with antiseptic soap/gels and health centre cleaning kits
- Provide hand-soap and laundry soap top-ups to over 3,800 Households in 17 villages
- Deliver a further 100 PPE kits to Rakhine State Health Department
MA-UK has adapted its distribution modality for delivering kits from a controlled distribution site to a house-to-house modality. This has enabled MA-UK and our implementing partners to uphold social distancing measures, ensure the most vulnerable members of the community (older people, lactating mothers, pregnant women and people with disability) are not left out. Most importantly, it provides a unique opportunity for one-to-one dialogue on COVID-19 between staff, volunteers and households on a large scale.
MA-UK has utilised existing community structures from other projects to support this response in a number of villages. We are working with Rural Development Committees established as part of a project funded by the HARP- Facility. During distributions, the committee members have been pivotal in raising awareness of key COVID-19 messages and reaching community members that are sometimes left out in these types of campaigns.
The aim by the end of the programme is that communities will be following social distancing guidelines, wearing face masks when required and practicing good hand washing practices. Over the remainder of the programme, we will conduct further activities alongside Government and community health workers to help prevent COVID-19 in Sittwe Township. MA-UK and our implementing partners will continue to identify key gaps that could weaken the ability of these communities to prevent and fight COVID-19, and advocate for further support.