Chip in Myanmar
Relief International Board Member and Filmmaker, Chip Duncan, reports from the field in Myanmar.
Myanmar (aka Burma), achieved independence from the British in 1948. Since that time, the nation has experienced significant challenges both economically and politically. Until very recently, Myanmar was largely isolated and was considered a difficult place for foreigners to visit. Today, Myanmar is undergoing a domestic reform movement resulting in democratic elections and new efforts promoting international trade and commerce. Recent diplomatic visitors to Myanmar include India’s Prime Minister and the US Secretary of State.
I made my first visit in 1995 while filming the television series “Mystic Lands.” The episode on Burma, entitled “Triumph of the Spirit,” featured the devout Buddhist spiritual life of the Burmese people. The episode included stories about the Schwedagon Pagoda, the ancient city of Bagan, Mount Popa and the monastic retreats in and around Mandalay and the Sagaing Hills.
The picture below shows tropical housing on a delta in Myanmar.
This past May, I returned to Myanmar with Dr. Hernando Garzon with the goal of assessing and documenting the maternal health and food sustainability programmes of Relief International. Relief International was among the humanitarian aid groups responding to the devastating Cyclone Nargis during May 2008. The cyclone is considered among the worst natural disasters in modern Burmese history. Nearly 120 mph winds and a huge tidal surge had a devastating impact on coastal and delta areas south and west of the capital city of Yangon (aka Rangoon). Families in the region relied largely on fishing and rice production for their livelihoods, much of which was destroyed by the cyclone. Damages exceeded $2.4 billion. Estimates are hard to quantify but it’s believed that more than 80,000 people were killed with as many as 300,000 missing. Women and children were most impacted by the cyclone.
Smiling Burmese children in the picture below.
Like so many Relief International efforts, the success of Relief International’s immediate crisis relief and humanitarian assistance evolved into long-term, sustainable programmes in maternal health care and food sustainability. The needs continue and Relief International has stated a commitment to serving the people of Myanmar for many years to come.
Below is a nurse midwife at Kyon Dah Station Hospital.
Dr. Garzon and I visited several locations in the delta region featuring the health care work of the Relief International team including the Kyon Dah Station Hospital on the island of Kyon Dah, the Dedaye Township hospital and the Pya Pon District hospital. The 40 person Relief International staff is comprised almost entirely of Burmese personnel with only one expat on the administrative team. A post by Dr. Garzon will be available shortly.