MYANMAR : Naga region – A local lawmaker in Sagaing Region said yesterday that although the measles outbreak in the Naga Self-Administered Zone is under control in Lahe township, neighbouring Nanyun township is still struggling to contain and treat a spate of illnesses, which some are now saying is not the same malady.
“The situation is stable in Lahe. Currently, Nanyun is worse off than Lahe. [According to] the latest data, two more people were killed – one on August 23 and another one on August 25,” said regional MP U Law Yone (NLD; Lahe 1).
“We got news that 82 patients were killed in Naga,” he said, while noting that the death toll was unconfirmed. A team that includes an official from the Naga administrative office has gone into the field to confirm the situation, he added.
“Medicine and food assistance is needed for locals because they have been facing malnourishment. Currently, donors and the government are offering supporting aid.”
U Law Yone added, “Health experts said that Nanyun is not a measles outbreak but the accounts of civilians said the symptoms of patients from Nanyun resembled Lahe’s symptoms.”
U Aung Htut, president of the Naga Traditional Literature and Cultural Centre Committee, said a lack of both transportation and education was causing the high casualty count from the infectious disease, exacerbated by high rates of malnutrition in the self-administered zone.
“The roads situation is worse in Nanyun than Lahe,” he said.
“I reached both Lahe and Nanyun. I saw children suffering severe malnutrition,” said U Aung Htut. “MoH [the Ministry of Health] has implemented a vaccination program to inject the measles vaccine. They announced that Nanyun is not a measles outbreak – it is knock-on health problems caused by malnutrition and a lack of hygiene.”
Children under five years old have constituted a majority of the outbreak’s victims.
At a press conference on August 26 covering the first 100 days of the new government, the Ministry of Health said that in addition to difficulties physically accessing affected populations, language barriers were also stymieing effective treatment.
The ministry said its vaccination drive since the outbreak first made headlines had covered 85 percent of the region, including 15,054 children.
With the Naga Self-Administered Zone’s healthcare woes highlighted by this month’s outbreak, Dr Htar Htar Lin told The Myanmar Times yesterday that the government would draw up a long-term plan to address the problems.
In the near term, said Dr Htar Htar Lin, the Ministry of Health’s deputy director for immunisation, there are plans to administer 10 other vaccines in October, November and December to protect against other potential health threats in the region.
At the 100-day press conference last week, Union Health Minister Dr Myint Htwe warned that outbreaks of measles and other infectious diseases were likely to be seen in regions other than Naga as well.
“When we examined why that disease was occurring, it was found that most people in our country are pretty lacking in health knowledge,” he said, noting that the risk of contracting measles could be avoided with preventative immunisation.
Of the Naga region’s underdeveloped healthcare and transportation infrastructure, he said, “We have many areas like that. If there are satellite phones to report information from remote areas, we can know in time and many people would not have died like now.”
He added that the Naga region would be used as a case study to help inform the development of a broader national health plan.
“We will have to consider the case that occurred in Lahe on the whole,” he said. “We will have to consider it as [part of] a national plan not to allow such diseases to occur, especially in remote areas.”