Nurses Registering Covid-19 Vaccines in South-East Asia. [Image: Asian Development Bank / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)]

Californian Philanthropists Launch $1.1 Million Match Fund for Covid-19 Relief Program in Myanmar

The Mekong ASEAN Asia

Currently, new waves of the Covid-19 Delta variant are on a rampage in Asian countries, where many of the populations are still unvaccinated. The situation is particularly dire in Myanmar, where a military coup started last February sent the already fragile health care system into chaos. The UN estimates only 40 percent of Myanmar’s healthcare facilities are still able to function.

Even before the coup and the more infectious Covid-19 Delta variant, many hospitals in Myanmar were already ill-equipped to cope with the pandemic. The coup triggered a pro-democracy movement in Myanmar that includes medical professionals refusing to serve at hospitals controlled by the military junta. From February to July 2021, an analysis estimates junta forces have carried out at least 252 attacks against medical personnel and facilities, detaining at least 190 medical workers. The combination of poverty, political unrest, a new wave of Covid-19, the military’s seizure of medical facilities and equipment, and the isolation of the country has sent Myanmar into an unprecedented crisis.

In response to the situation in Myanmar, Community Partners International, a California-based nonprofit organization, launched a Myanmar Covid-19 SOS campaign. The proceeds from the campaign will support a range of emergency needs, including the distribution of oxygen concentrators, the construction and operation of oxygen plants, support to medical teams, and equipment and supplies for community-based covid-19 case centers. Community Partner International has 23 years of partnership with local communities across Myanmar and supports grassroots efforts to provide COVID-19 care in the absence of a functioning public health system.

To assist Community Partners International, B.K Kee Foundation, a family foundation dedicated to vulnerable communities in Myanmar, and other philanthropists in California are contributing $1.1 million match fund to the Community Partners International’s Covid-19 SOS campaign. The match fund will double donations made to Community Partners International, which means two additional dollars for every dollar donated, up to $1.1 million, to bring lifesaving care to people with Covid-19 in Myanmar.

Myanmar needs international support to address this humanitarian tragedy. Basic medical supplies, vaccines, personal protective equipment, and human resources are all critical. International donations have become more critical than ever as the political unrest has made it challenging to manage resources domestically. The contributions made through nonprofit organizations, family foundations, and the US government have been tremendous in alleviating the unfolding crisis.

Natasia Engeline is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a graduate student at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. Her research interests include monetary and fiscal policy as well as ASEAN–US relations.