Burma (Myanmar) has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 disease in the world, but its cases are said to be vastly under-reported, and the country’s poor are especially hard-hit by outbreaks – and the measures to contain them.
Since the nearly 88-percent Buddhist country acknowledged its first case of COVID-19 on March 23, national and regional government agencies have ordered lockdowns of buildings and streets with confirmed cases, stay-at-home measures and restrictions on travel, according to an online magazine devoted to Asian regions, The Diplomat.
While social-distancing measures became increasingly stringent in April, essential shops and markets remained open, and restaurants and food stalls could sell takeout orders. The closure of all factories in one area, however, left a local ministry’s impoverished congregation wondering how they would survive, its director said.
“Our church people are very poor, hand-to-mouth people – they have nothing to eat now,” the ministry leader said. “From the church offering, we purchased rice bags, cooking oil and beans, and we distributed as much as we could. But that will help them only about two weeks. After one more week, how will they survive?”
Such scenarios are taking place in many places throughout a country where 24.8 percent of the people are poor and nearly 33 percent on the verge of dropping below the poverty line due to such unexpected shocks, according to The Diplomat.
“‘Oh, God, take care of your people for our daily bread,’ this is our prayer,” the ministry director said. “May I invite you to pray with us for these kind of people in our ministry fields in Myanmar.”
In early May, Burma reported just 185 cases of novel coronavirus infection with six fatalities, figures considered wildly undercounted considering the country’s growing position as an international travel hub, including visitors to and from China.
About 23 percent of the population has at least one chronic illness that puts them at greater risk if infected by the new coronavirus, The Diplomat reported. Even with increased health protections in social programs since Burma’s 2010 reforms, it noted, 83 percent of the country’s 24 million workers are in the informal sector of jobs such as street vendors or day-laborers, which falls outside the social safety net.
About 62 percent of Burma’s people are estimated to have no savings, the outlet reported.
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SOURCE: Christian Aid Mission