Tuesday December 12, 2017

Australian Scientists hope to reduce Myanmar’s high death toll from Snake bites in Rural Communities

The official toll from snake bites in Myanmar is 600 deaths a year out of some 13,000 cases among a rural population dependent on rice harvesting

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FILE - A snake charmer walks with pythons on his shoulder to attract tourists in Amarapura, Mandalay region, Myanmar, Jan. 2, 2016. Mandalay alone registers an estimated 700 to 800 snake bite victims each year. VOA

Bangkok, March 19, 2017: Australian scientists, working with counterparts in Myanmar, are hoping to reduce Myanmar’s high death toll from snake bites in rural communities, especially among vulnerable populations facing inadequate emergency care.

The official toll from snake bites in Myanmar is 600 deaths a year out of some 13,000 cases among a rural population dependent on rice harvesting for a living. But rice paddy fields and rice stacks lure rats and mice, and in turn draw snakes, the most venomous being the Russell’s vipers and cobras.

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But the hopes for survival are often challenged by long distances from emergency care, with poor roads and infrastructure between snake bite victims and life-saving medical treatment.

Chen Au Peh, a renal specialist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in South Australia, said speedy access to emergency medical treatment is crucial.

“So all these factors accumulate to a long delay between bite and administration of an anti-venom. So to help them, we have to help them produce more anti-venom, to get the anti-venom to where it’s required to help them keep the anti-venom in the refrigerator and to help the health professionals,” Peh said.

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Lifestock also affected

The project has also involved ensuring higher survival rates of horses used in the production of the anti-venom after being injected with snake venom. High mortality rates were evident among the horses due to anemia, nutritional problems and veterinary practices. Changes in practice included learning the skills developed by Myanmar horse handlers.

“In the last 10 months the average horse mortality is something like six or seven per month – compared to 50 per month – and this is very good news not only for horses but for human patients who may need the anti-venom. The more horses that survive the month, the more vials of anti-venom you can produce,” Peh said.

FILE – A Dec. 18, 2015, photo provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society, shows an 18-inch, one-year-old cobra is shown. Cobras and vipers are among the most venomous snakes in Myanmar.
VOA

As a result, production of anti-venom has risen sharply to 100,000 vials from 60,000 vials.

The team’s work, part of a $1.77 million effort begun in 2014 with support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and working with Myanmar’s Ministries of Industry and Health, is focused on the northern city of Mandalay, a region that faces an estimated 700 to 800 snake bite victims each year.

The Australian team, which includes Afzal Mahmood, a senior lecturer in public health at the University of Adelaide and Julian White, a world renowned toxicologist from the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, is working with specialists in Myanmar and local partners on guidelines, protocols and standard operating procedures for the health sector.

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Real numbers higher

Mahmood said a recent survey indicated the rate of snake bites was considerably higher than official figures.

“It is not a new phenomenon, it happens because many people do not reach the health system where recording takes place. Some people get treated by the traditional healers; some may die without actually reaching the health system and some may suffer and get healed,” Mahmood told VOA.

But he said the program has succeeded in boosting the skills among the local medical and non-medical community.

“We have produced revised guidelines for the doctors [and] some diagnostic tests, and the training of some 200 health care providers,” he said.

The work has reached about 150 villages with local community meetings targeting around 7,000 people to promote awareness of snake bite treatments.

The goal, the scientists said, is to shorten the time to treatment by providing solar powered refrigerators near to local communities with supplies of anti-venom.

Mahmood says the challenges go beyond the initial treatment.

“Psychological issues post-bite [affect] not only the person but the family themselves suffer. It’s a very life-changing experience,” he said.

Victims of snake bites are among Myanmar’s poorest. They often face long periods of hospitalization, leaving families facing high medical bills, often equivalent to several months of real earnings as they struggle to meet hospital and transport expenses, even those receiving subsidies.

To ensure the project is sustainable, its goal is to provide a model that can be applied elsewhere in Myanmar. (VOA)

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Drone and Satellites Expose Myanmar’s Pain

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Rohingya refugee
An Oct. 5, 2017 image taken from a video released by Arakan Rohingya National Organization shows villagers preparing to cross a river towards the Maungdaw township in the Rakhine state that borders Bangladesh.

London- The Rohingya refugee crisis is an age-old tale of displacement and suffering, but technology is providing new tools to tackle it, rights groups and charities said on Wednesday.

Powerful drone and satellite images are bringing to life the urgent needs of more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, while also providing strong evidence of abuses, which could be used to lobby for justice.

“We can describe for hours the large numbers of refugees crossing the border and how quickly existing camps have expanded, but one image captures it all,” said Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since the military in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar launched a counter-insurgency operation after attacks on security posts by Rohingya militants in late August.

The UNHCR is using videos and photographs shot with drones to show the scale of the displacement crisis and bring it to life to spur action from the public and donors.

It is also using satellites to count and identify refugee families by their location in the Bangladesh camps to target assistance to those most in need, Mahecic told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.

The use of drone footage of refugees entering Bangladesh has boosted donations for medical care, water and food, according to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an alliance of 13 leading British aid agencies.

Rights monitors also hope satellite images can provide evidence that to help bring perpetrators to justice.

Satellite photos were used in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to prove mass executions in 1995 in Srebrenica.

But the technology has yet to achieve its potential because of limited budgets and a lack of standardised methodologies accepted by courts, experts say.

Human Rights Watch has shared satellite images showing the burning of almost 300 villages in Myanmar, refugees’ mobile phone footage and their testimonies with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“We have found the debris field in satellite imagery where people were executed, corroborating multiple eyewitness statements,” said Josh Lyons, a satellite imagery analyst with the U.S.-based rights group.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has called the violence against Rohingya in Myanmar “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” and his office is working to determine whether it meets the legal definition of genocide.(VOA)

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Myanmar Must Take Back Displaced Rohingya Refugees : India

Sushma Swaraj did not use the word Rohingya to refer to the thousands who have taken shelter in Bangladesh and instead referred to them as displaced persons from Rakhine state

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Rohingya
A group of Rohingya refugees walk on the muddy road after traveling over the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. VOA

Dhaka, October 22, 2017 : India on Sunday said Rohingya refugees who have poured into Bangladesh must be taken back by Myanmar from where they have been displaced.

“Normalcy will only be restored with the return of the displaced persons to Rakhine state,” Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at a media meet also attended by her Bangladeshi counterpart Abula Hassan Mahmood Ali.

This followed the fourth India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Committee meeting.

ALSO READ US will Provide $32 Million to Rohingyas As Humanitarian Aid Package

Sushma Swaraj did not use the word Rohingya to refer to the thousands who have taken shelter in Bangladesh and instead referred to them as displaced persons from Rakhine state, bdnews24.com reported.

She said India was “deeply concerned at the spate of violence in Rakhine state of Myanmar”.

According to latest figures from the UN office in Bangladesh, over 600,000 refugees have entered the country since August 25 after the Myanmar Army cracked down on the Rohingyas after a series of attacks on security personnel in Rakhine.

Bangladesh Minister Ali said India was urged to contribute towards exerting sustained pressure on Myanmar to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, including return of Rohingyas to their homeland. (IANS)

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Myanmar to launch its own Satellite System MyanmarSat-2 in 2019

The project will cost about $155.7 billion.

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Nirbhay
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) sources said the Nirbhay missile test was "successful".(Representative image) VOA

Yangon, October 22, 2017 : Myanmar has planned to launch its own satellite system MyanmarSat-2 in June in 2019, official Global New Light of Myanmar reported on Saturday.

To establish state-owned satellite system, the three ways — Condosat which is to lease the use of satellite transponder of another country, joint ownership system and total ownership system — are needed to be done, Vice President U Myint Swe told a coordination meeting of the steering committee in Nay Pyi Taw.

The MyanmarSat-2 will be used on joint ownership system while the MyanmarSat-1 is currently used on lease system.

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The project will cost about $155.7 billion.

The Vice President urged the committee to put the Indefeasible Right of Use (IRU) of the transponder as an unchangeable provision in the contract.

The vice president also called on the ministries which are currently working for MyanmarSat-1 using the foreign satellite to hire Myanmar Sat-2 after their contracts with foreign firms expire. (IANS)