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Mobile Medical Teams Help Cyclone Victims in Burma

The International Organization for Migration says dozens of health workers are providing primary health care and other essential medical assistance to thousands of victims of Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma in early May. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from IOM headquarters in Geneva.

IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy tells VOA, mobile medical teams are navigating through the narrow river system of the Irrawaddy Delta to provide primary health care to Cyclone Nargis survivors in remote, hard to reach areas.

"The way we do it is actually quite interesting, because we work with a fleet of inflatable boats called Zodiacs, with engines, outboard engines," he said. "And, we go to those villages to bring the assistance that is needed. It is part of a broader health program for Myanmar. We have also, with our partners, set up 15 temporary clinics, these are tented clinics in places where the medical infrastructure was completely destroyed by the cyclone."

This medical program began after the Cyclone struck on May 2. So far, IOM mobile medical teams have treated nearly 25,000 patients in 327 remote villages in the Delta.

The cyclone, the worst to hit Burma in 40 years, killed around 130,000 people, and affected nearly 2.5 million people. A recent United Nations survey assessed damages and losses at about $4 billion.

Hundreds of thousands of homes and schools have been destroyed and damaged. The survey found 75 percent of the health facilities in the Irrawaddy Delta have been demolished.

Chauzy say people are suffering from the effects of unclean water and food, lack of proper shelter and clothing, and a lack of adequate sanitation. He says many survivors also have been deeply traumatized by the shattering effects of the Cyclone and are in need of psychological support.

"As part of our medical teams, we also have psycho-social counselors, who are doing their best to provide as much needed assistance to those who have been particularly affected, traumatized by the Cyclone now," said Chauzy. "That is obviously a long-term goal. We need to continue to provide this psychological support to children, to adults who have been particularly aggrieved by this Cyclone."

In addition to providing direct medical aid, IOM is also distributing relief items, including tarpaulins, jerry cans, chlorine for water purification, hygiene kits and insecticide-treated mosquito nets.