Since the coup on February 1st, Myanmar has experienced massive political and economic turmoil. Now to add to this, during the wet season a devastating third wave of Covid-19 has hit the country. As was explained in our last blog post, the ruling military junta have exacerbated the threat of the pandemic greatly, by, among other factors, restricting access to oxygen, arresting heath professionals and fueling vaccine hesitancy.
Due to this, communities up and down the country are being forced to take matters into their own hands. One such community is in Pindaya, Southern Shan state, home to all of the smallholder farmers who work with the Lost Tea Company. Pindaya is a township of 100,000 people, but only 2 health clinics with just 100 beds. Pindaya’s medical infrastructure is strained at the best of times, during a pandemic it begins to crack.
A group of brave young volunteers, called Say Ta Nar Mon, have been leading the community effort to ease the pain. The group have assumed many responsibilities to help those who need care and keep their community as safe as possible.
As there are only 100 hospital beds in Pindaya, most people who test positive are having to fend for themselves at home. Say Ta Nar Mon have been preparing and delivering meals for those who cannot leave their homes, either sick with covid-19 or quarantining to stop the spread of the virus. Set up by Ko Maung Maung, owner of the Kanbawza tea company, the group are also coordinating an effort to find accommodation for people to isolate after a close contact.
But Pindaya`s greatest challenge currently is access to oxygen. The nearest oxygen refill point is in the state capital of Taunggyi, which is at least a 5-hour journey round trip from Pindaya. Volunteers are making this journey every day to refill oxygen tanks both for the medical centres and for patients suffering in their homes. This trip is undertaken 7 days a week, even in the knowledge there is of course no guarantee that oxygen will be available on any given day.
Our close friend and colleague Lin Pyae Htun (pictured above) is, along with many others, fundraising to help his community to pay for this food and fuel. Lin Pyae also has a vision of supplying the town’s medical centres with at least two oxygen converter machines. These clever bits of kit convert purified water into oxygen. Having a steady and secure supply of oxygen is an invaluable weapon in the fight against COVID – literally giving people breath and allowing their bodies the time to fight the virus.
To help Lin Pyae and the Say Ta Nar Mon volunteer group in their fundraising efforts we will be doing a 70 km sponsored walk, the distance that volunteers from Pindaya have to drive to Taunggyi to refill their oxygen tanks.
We will walk this on 22nd September and will take us roughly 14 hours to complete,
Say Ta Nar Mon’s efforts will and do save lives, but to achieve them they need your help. We implore you to donate below what you can to support Lin Pyae and the community in Pindaya, not only to provide the urgent need now, but also to future proof for the inevitable fourth and fifth waves.