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Sunday, 9 May 2010

Clive, Myanmar (Burma) - Kachin bruised ribs

Clive: “I spent the end of January in Mitkinya (pronounced Michinar) in Kachin province, near the Chinese and Indian borders. The flight was 2hrs 40 minutes including a 20 minute stop in Mandalay, the scenery from the air was fantastic as the flight path followed the Irrawaddy River. I stayed with Renaud the French Coordinator for DOW, in his house (the garden included an incinerator for needles – the work in Kachin is with drug users). Transport was by bike and on the way to work we rode by the side of the Irrawaddy with mountains in the background. Mitkinya was larger and more modern than Pyapon and I liked it as a town. Each morning you could see boats coming down the river with water melons etc to sell at the market.

It was freezing at night but 25 degrees in the day.  Kachin is very Christian and there were churches on every street corner, mainly Baptist, but also some Catholic and Anglican. We went to Ubyit to see the clinic.  I also went to Moeggaung 2 hours away, accompanied by a Government Liaison Officer (as this is required for expatriates), and I visited the clinic there. I had to present the new Human Resources Policy at each site, which was translated for me and as with any new policy there were lots of questions especially on pay. At one heated moment at Moeggaung I broke the ice as the chair I was sat on (a plastic garden chair) collapsed.

The local staff were horrified I just thought it was funny. This was after an hour of holding the meeting.  My only positive was that if I had not lost weight in Myanmar it would have probably collapsed in only 30 minutes.

The picture shows Renaud, Dr Mo Thant and Min Min having a drink in the night market.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Clive, Myanmar (Burma) - The only non-Burmese in town

Clive: “I spent 4 days in the town of Pyapon (population of the township is around 300,000) in the Delta area where Doctors of the World do training and support to community health workers in remote villages. The area is restricted so special Travel Authorisation is needed from the Government; hence I was the only non-Burmese in the town. This really felt like the third world – no running water (the people just collect rain water), primitive toilets, little electricity, few cars but thousands of bikes. I got bitten by mosquitoes but luckily malaria is not too prevalent here.

The people were lovely and hospitable. The average wage is $16 per month. I had breakfast in a teashop with the DOW staff, the choice comprised of noodles, samosa, fried tofu, pork crackling, soup and on my last day fried eggs on toast.
Pyapon is about 60 miles from Yangon, but because the roads are so poor it took 3 hours. The compound is by the side of the river and almost all work is conducted by Boat, many of the villages can be 16 hours away by boat so staff sleep-over at sub bases, by the sides of the river.

I spent a fantastic day on a boat with Dr Hein Latt visiting a remote village called Hte Tan Yin. I sat in a session where a Doctors of the World nurse went through the consultation records for the last month which were completed by the Community Health Worker (a village resident who has been given 4 weeks training and receives 6 monthly refresher training sessions). His medical kit was re-stocked with drugs etc and then the Community Health Worker did a health presentation on nutrition to 25 villagers. The nurse then asked the villagers test questions giving out t-shirts and shopping bags (with printed health messages on them) as prizes for those who answered correctly. The big health problems relate to poor water and snakes.

We then went to a sub-base where DOW staff have overnight stays when out in the field and we renewed the contract with the owner (he was an old man who insisted on giving me tea and honey). They had agreed to do some work, building platforms above the ground to the toilets because the area has lots of snakes even though I did not see any. He insisted I saw the local school next door which had 60 children and they were proud because UNICEF was building a toilet for the school, it’s currently just a platform with a hole directly into the river.
On my last evening the DOW team in Pyapon took me to the best (and only) restaurant in town, they were all dressed up and I felt a bit embarrassed because I had on the same DOW t-shirt that I had worn all day. They insisted on paying for me, although they agreed to let me pay next time.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Clive, Myanmar (Burma) - The HIV/AIDS project in the capital, Yangon

The pictures are taken at the compound in Yangon which comprises of the HQ for the country and a Drop-in clinic for those at significant risk of Aids. It provides counselling, support, testing and HIV treatment. The approach uses peers to do outreach work with those at risk e.g. sex workers by promoting prevention and encouraging them to come to the clinic. Doctors of the World (Medecins du Monde) does similar work with drug users in Kachin and more general community health work in the Delta area destroyed by Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

This picture is from the veranda in the offices where we have a lunch prepared by a cook. The view is great over a small lake with a pagoda in the middle. The compound is about 2 miles from home, our journey is on a road by the side of Inya Lake.