The United Nations in Myanmar has warned of the impact of the ongoing violence in the country following the February 1, 2021 coup on the public health system, particularly COVID response. The UN has raised concerns over the attacks on medical personnel and facilities, and reiterated its call for granting protection to health workers, health facilities and patients.
The United Nations Country Team in Myanmar consists of FAO, ILO, IOM, ITC, OHCHR, OCHA, UNAIDS, UNCDF, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UN HABITAT, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIDO, UNODC, UNOPS, UNV, UN WOMEN, WFP, and WHO.
In a press statement, the UN said, “According to the World Health Organization (WHO) global surveillance system, since the beginning of February there have been 158 reported attacks on health care, resulting in 11 deaths and 51 injuries. This is currently the majority of reported attacks on health care services worldwide since the beginning of 2021. Some 83 attacks impacted facilities, 21 attacks impacted ambulances, 76 attacks impacted health personnel, and 73 attacks impacted patients.”
According to the global tracking system, 51 health facilities across Myanmar have been under occupation by security forces and at least 31 of these facilities remain currently occupied and have reported a drop in the number of people seeking medical care. The UN in Myanmar team also reports that “at least 139 doctors believed to be participating in civil disobedience have reportedly been charged under Section 505 (a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code. These include highly specialized health personnel whose expertise cannot easily be replaced, which will significantly impact both the quality and quantity of health services available.”
There are grave concerns about attacks on medical personnel having an adverse impact on Covid response in the conflict-torn region. “The United Nations in Myanmar stands ready to continue its support of the national COVID-19 response but this requires a return to the comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic previously underway, that the inviolable nature of health facilities and health workers and patients is respected, and the immediate release of urgently needed medical and technical personnel detained or arrested while exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Andrew Kirkwood, acting interim United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Myanmar.
In the four months since the coup, the UN estimates that at least 750 people have been killed in the violence that has erupted across Myanmar.
*Feature Image: Protest in Myanmar against Military Coup 14-Feb-2021 by MgHla (aka) Htin Linn Aye via Wikimedia Commons