The World Health Organization on Tuesday said that an increased risk of malaria and other diseases is one of the agency's "biggest concerns" in the wake of a cyclone that hit Myanmar last week, the AP/Yahoo! News reports. WHO is waiting for permission from the country to send in medical teams to prevent mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria (Mason, AP/Yahoo! News, 5/6).
Myanmar's military government has been denying foreign relief workers access to sites in the country, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. International SOS -- which has an office in Yangon, Myanmar -- recently issued warnings about the risk of malaria and other diseases (Gibson, AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/7).
UNICEF said it plans to distribute insecticide-treated nets and other supplies in the country, according to the AP/Yahoo! News. Vismita Gupta-Smith, the spokesperson for WHO's regional office in New Delhi, said that demolished infrastructure could hamper early efforts to prevent disease outbreaks. She added that WHO is waiting for Myanmar's military leaders to request aid from a regional emergency fund that was created last year to fill the time gap between international donor pledges and the arrival of medical supplies. About $175,000 currently is available in the fund, she said (AP/Yahoo! News, 5/6).
On Wednesday, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said his government will give three million Australian dollars, or about $2.8 million, in immediate relief aid to Myanmar. Smith said Australia's contribution is aimed at "key priorities," which include ITNs and other tools to prevent the spread of malaria. He noted that the money will be divided among the aid agencies CARE, Caritas Internationalis, United Nations World Food Program, UNICEF and World Vision (Asia Pulse, 5/7).
In addition, Thailand's Ministry of Public Health on Wednesday dispatched drugs and medical supplies worth $157,000 to Myanmar, TNA/Mathaba reports. Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Prat Boonyawongvirot said local health officials have been working with Myanmar authorities to prevent disease outbreaks on the border between the two countries. Thailand's health ministry has prepared 20 mobile medical teams and 20 teams of disease survey experts trained to identify emerging health issues in the areas. The units are set to leave for Myanmar immediately if requested by the government, he added