Volunteers Step-In to Fight Myanmar's Covid-19 Surge

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Volunteers Step-In to Fight Myanmar's Covid-19 Surge

Photographer: Lynn Bo Bo & Nyein Chan Naing


With one of the worst healthcare systems in the world, the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar is confronting a surge in COVID-19 cases with the help of an army of community volunteers.

Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, is in lockdown with a stay-at-home order in place to control the spread of infections. The area has become the outbreak epicenter of the country. Most of these cases have emerged only since September.

With health workers overwhelmed by the number of COVID-19 patients within a fragile health system, thousands of frontline volunteers are now playing an important role in fighting Myanmar’s epidemic.

The Yangon Region Youth Affairs Committee (YRYAC) has nearly 500 volunteers helping around COVID-19 facilities in Yangon and the committee has recruited more than 1,400 who spend most of their days delivering foods and supplies, collecting garbage, disinfecting and taking care of the needs of patients.

Meanwhile, the We Love Yangon community-based charity organization, which has sub-groups in every 44 out of Yangon region's 45 townships, is also stepping up to help battle the outbreak.

At first, they sought donors in the local community and supported the needs of volunteer groups, quarantine centers, and facilities, but as infections increased, they founded a COVID-19 center that can accommodate 600 patients with the support of donors. Later, they named the site the 'Happy COVID Center.'

The World Health Organization ranked Myanmar as having the worst healthcare system in the world in 2000, the last time it published the ratings.

Until the beginning of democratic reforms in 2011, the ruling military government had allocated around 0.5 percent of GDP to health care.

In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the government allocated around 1.18 billion Kyats (910 million USD) to the system.