DR. CARL LUM / ALOHA MEDICAL MISSION VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
Dr. Myo Nwe, Aloha Medical Mission physician and an emergency room doctor at Kuakini Medical Center, examines a child on a boat in Kyeingchangi, Myanmar. The doctor was part of a mission this month to aid cyclone victims.
Pace of Myanmar's recovery surprises head of US aid team
The leader of the only U.S. medical team to enter Myanmar since a cyclone struck two months ago said yesterday he saw a surprising number of replanted rice paddies and more reconstruction than he expected.
Dr. Carl Lum spoke a day after returning from a two-week trip to the Irrawaddy delta with 25 doctors and nurses of the Honolulu-based Aloha Medical Mission.
"I was surprised to see how much recovery they had so far. People were rebuilding their damaged homes ... putting up new roofs," Lum said. "The rice paddies were really green as far as you can see."
Even so, Lum said it was clear many homes, schools and shops needed to be rebuilt. In the town of Kyeingchangi, where only 700 survived out of a population of 4,000, residents used blue tarp to graft makeshift roofs and walls onto their wooden homes.
Traveling on an old ferry converted into a floating clinic, Lum saw towns that were only partially destroyed, but others were almost completely ruined. He said the cyclone victims need building materials and equipment to purify water supplies.
Earlier yesterday a report by the United Nations, the Myanmar government and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations said Myanmar would need $1 billion in international aid over the next three years.
The May 2-3 disaster killed more than 84,000 and left more than 53,000 missing and presumed dead. The storm destroyed 450,000 homes and damaged 350,000.
Lum's team did not see widespread cases of cholera, malaria, dengue fever and other illnesses they expected would be epidemic. Instead they treated stress-related ailments like gastrointestinal problems and post-traumatic stress disorder. Other common complaints included respiratory infections, high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis.
Lum, a retired Honolulu surgeon, said the team did not see anyone suffering from starvation or malnutrition. This is likely because the area's fishermen have been catching fish and frogs. Buddhist monks also delivered food aid, he said.
Myanmar's military government stalled in accepting international aid, earning widespread condemnation from the U.S. and other nations. The government even physically prevented relief workers from going to the hardest-hit areas.
Lum said he could not measure the effect those moves had.