How are partners supporting Myanmar’s COVID-19 Response?

Leigh Mitchell
11 min readMar 27, 2020
Photo: AFP/Ye Aung Thu, Source: http://shorturl.at/nuyDV

*** Last Update: 4 April 2020 ***

Over the past several weeks there have been a number of announcements as to what Myanmar’s partners are doing to support the country’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) response. This article is simply an attempt to keep track of that assistance. I will keep updating this post as new information comes in. Please feel free to get in touch if you think I’ve missed something.

NB: I have not included domestic assistance/donations made in an individual capacity or by Myanmar private sector entities.

NB: There is very likely to be double counting in the activities described below given how activities are reported, and by whom.

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This table is a summary of the various posts below.

The Access to Health Fund

The Access to Health Fund has reported that it is:

“…supporting the Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports, ethnic health organizations and ethnic and community-based organizations (EHOs and ECBHOs), implementing partners, and humanitarian actors, in their response to COVID19. This work is being constantly coordinated with actors at al levels, including the MOHS, WHO and humanitarian actors.”*

The AHF has helpfully summed up their support as follows:

  • procurement of supplies and protective equipment;
  • support to state health departments;
  • support to township health departments;
  • support to EHOs and ECBHOs;
  • support to humanitarian actors, including a) procurement and distribution of non-food items and healthcare material, b) provision of emergency WASH activities, and c) risk communication and community engagement on COVID-19;
  • support in prisons, including working with UNODC to increase prison readiness for a COVID-19 outbreaks;
  • communications, including working with MoHS, journalists, and the LIFT Fund.

Further details became available on 3 March 2020, when Access to Health reported:

“The Access to Health Fund and Good Neighbours International came together to procure test kits, reagents and other laboratory equipment to increase the capacity of the National Health Laboratory to test suspected cases of COVID19 to the value of 700,000 USD.

The first batch of items (5,088 real-time PCR tests and 10,000 viral transport media tubes) arrived yesterday to Yangon International Airport and were quickly transferred to the National Health Laboratory where they can contribute to Myanmar’s overall response. In total, enough equipment for 20,000 tests will be procured under this initiative.

In addition, Good Neighbours International will implement small-scale risk communication activities targeting 30,000 households in Yangon, Delta and Dry Zone where their existing other projects are located.”*

The Asian Development Bank

On 18 March 2020, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) launched a US$6.5 billion Initial Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic package of assistance for member countries.

On 23 March 2020, ADB representative met with the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations to discuss potential loan and grant support Myanmar’s efforts against COVID-19. The ADB has also discussed the allocation of US$1 million as part of the existing GMS Health Security Project Fund.*

China

China has helping to equip Myanmar’s National Health Laboratory with COVID-19 test kits.*

It was reported that on 18 March 2020, a batch of laboratory equipment provided by China arrived in Myanmar.*

In a 26 March 2020 interview with Chinese Ambassador Chen Hai, the Ambassador stated:

“The Chinese government has handed more than 2,000 novel coronavirus test kits, lab agents, electric thermometers and antimicrobial wet tissues to the Myanmar side. More materials including hemispherical thermometers, N95 face masks and surgical masks are expected to arrive soon.”*

On 27 March 2020, it was reported that China had donated medical protective equipment to help Myanmar in its battle against the COVID-19 outbreak. These donations included 5,000 sets of protective clothing, 5,000 N95 respirators and 200,000 surgical marks. The donation was reported to have been handed over by Chinese Ambassador Chen Hai to Zaw Than Htun, Director General of the Medical Research Department of the Ministry of Health and Sports at Yangon International Airport.* The same article claims that China plans to send additional medical equipment such as thermometers.

In a 27 March 2020, tweet, Myanmar Minister of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations stated that a second shipment of 2.45 tons of medical supplies, including PPEs, N95 and disposables masks donated by China had arrived in Yangon the night before, and that temperature scanners and other equipment were expected to follow shortly thereafter.

A 31 March 2020 article published by the Ministry of Information provided further detail:

Director-General Dr Thar Tun Kyaw of the ministry expressed thanks and presented the certificate of honour to the Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Mr Chen Hai for the donations of over 2,000 detection kits, 5,000 suits of the personal protective equipment, 5,000 N95 masks and 200,000 surgical masks.*

The same article also noted that the Chinese Embassy was coordinating the dispatch of medical aid teams to Myanmar.

Jack Ma Foundation & Alibaba Foundation

According to China’s Ambassador to Myanmar, the Jack Ma Foundation has donated protection and testing materials.*

A 30 March 2020 report provides further detail, stating that materials would include “medical supplies including N95 masks and test kits”.*

Photo: MNA

A ecns.cn article claimed that the Alibaba Foundation was was providing “medical supplies including N95 masks and test kits”.*

An article posted on the Ministry of Information website provides even more detail:

“Mr Ron Aung, representing the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation, presented 100,000 units of N95 masks and 28,800 detection kits.”*

Japan

On 24 March 2020, Channel NewsAsia reported that Japan was helping to equip Myanmar’s National Health Laboratory with COVID-19 test kits.*

The Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT)

On 30 March 2020, the LIFT Fund tweeted:

LIFT’s website provides further detail:

Eden and New Hope will work through the established household and community networks to distribute information and supplies to vulnerable communities at risk for COVID-19. This program addresses both short term relief and longer-term COVID-19 recovery. Within 7–10 days, at least 8,000 households will be reached to receive a combination of protective masks, soap, and awareness-raising items. This means within 7–10 days around 40,000 people are projected to be reached.

The LIFT Fund was also reported to be working with the ILO to be supporting Myanmar’s COVID-19 response in Rakhine State — see tweet above.

On 2 April 2020, UNOPS reported on their webiste:

“The UNOPS-managed Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT) partner Eden is working with the organization New Hope to produce soap, masks and hand sanitizer to distribute to vulnerable communities at risk for COVID-19. They aim to reach up to 40,000 people. LIFT approved $20,000 in funding for the initiative.”*

Paung Sie Facility

On 1 April 2020, the Paung Sie Facility (PSF) posted on Facebook that they would be rolling out a “PSF-COVID-19 Early Response Partner Support Package” with a view to supporting their partners in the immediate term.* Efforts will include:

  • helping partners adapt programming in the coming months, to helping partners transition to remote working, and encouraging and providing resources to help them move to online platforms;
  • redirecting funds to ensure partners can access additional data to support their work;
  • offering certificate level training in online facilitation;
  • establishing a rapid response fund for women working in partner organisations at any level who require support for child care; and
  • taking steps to support the mental health of their partners, including making a Myanmar counsellor available to all Myanmar staff and offering weekly online yoga classes.

Singapore

A 4 March 2020 article reported:

“Singapore has contributed diagnostic tests and machines to Myanmar to help in the detection of the novel coronavirus…”*

The article clarifies that the donation included a total of 3,000 diagnostics tests and two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines sent in response to a request from Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports.

Here’s a video:

On 24 March 2020, Channel NewsAsia reported that Singapore was helping to equip Myanmar’s National Health Laboratory with COVID-19 test kits.*

On 26 March 2020, Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ministry stated that Singapore’s Temasek Foundation would donate 10,000 COVID-19 test kits to Myanmar.* The same article noted this was Singapore’s second donation, the first being 3,000 COVID-19 test kits made in early March.

Thailand

On 24 March 2020, Channel NewsAsia reported that Thailand was helping to equip Myanmar’s National Health Laboratory with COVID-19 test kits.*

The United Nations (General)

On 30 March 2020, the United Nations reported:

The United Nations in Myanmar is now in the process of purchasing 50,000 COVID-19 testing kits for the National Health Laboratory (NHL). This total reflects the combined support of UNOPS, UNICEF, WFP and UNHCR, and builds upon earlier support provided by WHO and partners which gave 3,000 testing kits to the NHL.*

On 2 April 2020, the United Nations issued a press release which stated:

“More than 5,000 sets of basic items, including bed linen, mattresses, blankets, kitchen utensils and mosquito nets, as well as sets of hygiene items urgently needed at quarantine facilities, will soon be sent to the Yangon Regional Health Department. This support will also be complemented by WFP’s plans to support the people in quarantine facilities in Yangon with food assistance.”*

The support comes in addition to the earlier announced plans by the United Nations to send 50,000 test kits to the Ministry of Health and Sports.

United Nations Office for Project Services

In addition to managing the LIFT Multi-Donor Trust Fund (see earlier in this post), on 2 April 2020, UNOPS reported:

“UNOPS implemented the construction and equipping of 33 health centres in 4 townships. To free up space and capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports has moved the HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria sections of the Myawaddy District Hospital and Kawkareik District Hospital to these health centres.”*

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

A Myanmar Humanitarian Situation Report №2 2020 covering February 2020 noted various forms of support UNICEF was providing, including:

  • support the Ministry of Health and Sports’ Health Literacy Promotion Unit to translate and disseminate messages including in ethnic languages for the border areas on good hygiene and hand-washing, social media boosting and message dissemination reaching approximately 15 million people countrywide;
  • through UNICEF’s U-Report platform in Myanmar, over 6,000 young people have accessed the “chatbot” which provides relevant COVID-19 messaging,
  • UNICEF Myanmar received $175,000 in emergency response funds to begin COVID-19 communication and preparedness activities.*
Source: https://www.facebook.com/UReportMyanmar/

The same Situation Report also noted:

“…UNICEF participated in a one-day State Health Department workshop on preparedness planning for COVID -19 in Kachin State…”

At the top of page 4 the report also notes that UNICEF was complementing work done by the Ministry of Education in disseminating COVID-19 messages to schools by supporting the printing of messages for 500 non-formal education centres, reaching approximately 10,000 children with good hygiene and handwashing messages.

The United States

On 24 March 2020, Channel NewsAsia reported that the United States was helping to equip Myanmar’s National Health Laboratory with COVID-19 test kits.*

A 19 March 2020 tweet from H.E. U Thaung Tun, Myanmar’s Minister of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations stated that the US government had committed US$1.8 million, to be channelled through the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children, and Johns Hopkins University.*

On 31 March 2020, the US State Department published a very helpful summary* of US support to ASEAN in fighting COVID-19 which for Myanmar noted:

“Approximately $3.8 million in health and humanitarian funding will go toward water and sanitation supplies, COVID-19 case management, event-based surveillance, coordination, and more.

The $1.8 million H.E. U Thaung Tun noted in the tweet above comes from this larger $3.8 pacakge.

The CDC helped the Ministry of Health and Sports to launch a nationwide online tele-mentoring session on COVID-19, that is providing Myanmar’s frontline health workers with timely, accurate information on the outbreak at 100+ locations nationwide.

The CDC is also providing technical assistance on epidemiology, surveillance and laboratory case detection to the Myanmar’s Central Epidemiology Unit and the National Health Laboratory, and organized two rounds of technical consultations.”

The World Bank

On 17 March 2020, the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC) Boards of Directors approved a:

“…US$14 billion package of fast-track financing to assist companies and countries in their efforts to prevent, detect and respond to the rapid spread of COVID-19.”*

On 23 March 2020, the World Bank discussed this package with the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations. The World Bank also offered US$50 million as part of its International Development Association credit Fast Track Facility.*

United Nations Atomic Energy Agency

On 1 April 2020, the New York Times reported;

“The U.N. atomic agency is sending an initial batch of equipment to about 40 countries with which they will be able to perform a standard test for the coronavirus involving a technique derived from nuclear science, it said on Wednesday.”

“They will also receive biosafety supplies, such as personal protection equipment and laboratory cabinets for the safe analysis of collected samples.”*

Myanmar was listed amongst many other countries who would receive this support.

World Health Organisation

Frontier Magazine reported on 27 March 2020, that 7Day News Daily reported that Myanmar had asked the World Health Organisation (WHO) for assistance dealing with migrant workers who have returned home in large numbers.

“Ministry spokesperson Dr Khin Khin Gyi said the WHO had been asked to provide more aid because substantial amounts of medicine and equipment would be needed, including to monitor returned migrant workers who needed to be placed under surveillance for the coronavirus.”*

What is Myanmar doing to assist other countries?

Myanmar donated 200 tons of rice to China on 1 March 2020 to support its battle against COVID-19.* In a 26 March 2020 interview with Chinese Ambassador Chen Hai, the Ambassador mentioned 200 tons of rice having been sent to Hubei Province.* The Ambassador also mentioned that:

“Myanmar military had its air force deliver medical materials to China despite their own shortage of medical materials.”

Photo: Courtesy of the Chinese Embassy to Myanmar

A 19 March 2020 tweet by H.E. U Thaung Tun, Myanmar’s Minister of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations noted that Myanmar was:

“…contributing to South Korea’s fight against COVID 19. Two Korean Airforce C130s aircraft yesterday airlifted 80000 sets of medical gown made in Myanmar to Seoul . Korea is making all-out efforts to contain the coronavirus.”*

Comments under the tweets provide further details, suggesting that the gowns had been ordered by a Korean company (KM Healthcare) based in Myanmar and that the order had been issued by the Korean government.

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