Sanitation, public health woes plague flood victims
Ayeyarwady River levels in Mandalay have begun to recede, but residents in flooded areas are up against a shortage of potable water and a lack of food as thousands remain displaced.
HIGH waters along the Ayeyarwady River in Mandalay Region’s Amarapura and Tada-U townships have begun to recede, but victims of flooding in the area say they are not out of the woods yet, as sanitation concerns linger and many remain displaced.
Food and clean water supplies are still needed by some affected populations, according to U Than Aung, a member of the local administration office of Shwe Kyat Yat village.
Mandalay City Development Committee is distributing drinking water via water tankers, U Than Aung told The Myanmar Times yesterday, adding that those in need were encouraged to contact the municipal authority by phone.
Public health also remains a concern, he said, as authorities have been unable to arrange enough mobile toilet units for displaced populations.
The secretary of the Maha Myat Muni Pagoda board of trustees, U Kyi Soe, said sanitation worries applied to most water sources, including standing water that remains in some homes despite the floodwaters receding.
“In my opinion, water from wells and lakes is not pure,” he said, adding that the pagoda board of trustees had collaborated with wards’ elders to form a group to address the needs of flood victims, from clean water and temporary toilet provision to helping house displaced flood victims.
“The donators were so numerous when the waters were first rising, but they are fewer now,” U Kyi Soe said.
While some people displaced by the high waters have been able to stay with friends or relatives, or seen temporary lodging arranged by humanitarian organisations, others have set up tents beside the roads linking the city of Mandalay to Sagaing and Tada-U townships. Ward elder U Soe Myint from Pan Chee village estimated that more than 100 households and 500 people had taken up shelter along the Mandalay-Sagaing road.
“At my place [the water] is very deep. The water level is falling, but it still remains 7 feet [2.1 metres] in depth. We stayed by stacking our beds. The donations from the [government] departments have not reached here,” said U Kyaw Maung from Shwe Lay Kywat Thit village in Amarapura township, adding that two non-governmental welfare groups had managed to reach his home by boat to distribute drinking water.
He told The Myanmar Times yesterday that with their toilet still underwater, his family was forced to defecate from a boat, adding to sanitation concerns in the region.
“In this year’s flooding, the mosquitoes are very plentiful,” U Soe Myint said. “We want them to spray mosquito repellents. At the moment, dengue fever is not a problem but it could be as the mosquitoes are numerous.” U Win Myat Aye, the Union minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement, said the government is working to coordinate with civil society to address flood victims’ needs, seeking to make up for personnel shortfalls within his ministry.
“The government has enough funding to continue to provide food until the people can return home,” he said following a meeting with humanitarian and social welfare groups from upper Myanmar on August 6, though at the time the number displaced and receiving government rations stood at just 230,000.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, almost 360,000 people nationwide had been displaced by flooding as of August 8.
The Ayeyarwady River in Mandalay last week hit its highest water mark since 2004. At 1325 centimetres (43.5 feet), an August 1 reading was well above the 1260cm mark designated as the river’s “warning level”.
Yesterday, lower house MPs decided to forego their earnings for the day, donating them to flood relief efforts.
Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker U Win Myint collected K8.5 million from 426 representatives.
‘The donators were so numerous when the waters were first rising, but they are fewer now. ’ U Kyi Soe Secretary of pagoda trustees
Homes in Shwe Law War Ma village remain flooded.