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In a virtual ceremony held on 15 September, USD 1.1 million worth of medical supplies and equipment were handed over to the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) in support of that nation’s COVID-19 response. Contributing to the implementation of the “Five Point Consensus” on Myanmar agreed at the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting in April this year, the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance to Myanmar aims to address the most pressing humanitarian needs of the people of Myanmar.

The AHA Centre, as the operational lead, facilitated the delivery of the assistance, while, the MRCS, as a local partner, supported ASEAN by facilitating the request for tax-exemption and customs-clearance with the Myanmar local authorities, as well as providing temporary storage and last-mile distribution of the medical supplies and equipment to the communities in need in Myanmar.

The handover, which was attended by the Secretary-General of ASEAN H.E. Dato Lim Jock Hoi, the Executive Director of the AHA Centre Mr. Lee Yam Ming, and representatives of ASEAN Member States and donor countries, was the first result of the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance to Myanmar that was previously promised at a Pledging Conference hosted by the ASEAN Secretary-General.

At the Pledging Conference held on 18 August, Dato Lim Jock Hoi had called for a strong show of support for the people of Myanmar, in the spirit of “One ASEAN, One Response”. The support subsequently handed over to the MRCS is a concrete manifestation of this spirit, provided as it was by the governments of Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and Temasek Foundation International. The next batch is expected to be provided by Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, and Viet Nam, along with other donor countries and organisations.

Some USD 8 million in monetary pledges and in-kind contributions of medicine, medical supplies and equipment to assist Myanmar in containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus was raised at the conference. During the conference Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General to Myanmar Ms. Christine Schraner Burgener, on behalf of the UN Secretary-General H.E. Antonio Guterres, said,

UN humanitarian actors on the ground led by the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator will work to strengthen cooperation and seek complementarity with ASEAN’s AHA Centre.

In his remarks at the handover of the aid, Dato Lim Jock Hoi underscored the importance of extending a helping hand to the people of Myanmar in the realisation of a people-oriented, people-centred ASEAN Community. He thanked the five donor countries and Temasek Foundation International, and expressed his confidence that the assistance would alleviate the sufferings of the people of Myanmar in this critical time.

The Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar, Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof, in his recorded remarks at the handover said the COVID-19 pandemic was “the common enemy” that exposed the vulnerabilities not only of our socio-economic structures, but the fragility of human life. In his remarks, he urged the international community to continue giving support and to complement ASEAN’s efforts, further highlighting that the “provision of humanitarian assistance is a true reflection of the ‘ASEAN Way’, and demonstrated our commitment to help our ASEAN family when they are in need.”

ASEAN’s operational plan led by the AHA Centre will focus firstly on life-saving measures through the provision of immediate needs towards the COVID-19 response and mitigation, and thereafter proceed to address life-sustaining priorities of broader humanitarian needs. ASEAN’s humanitarian assistance will be supported by humanitarian partners in Myanmar, including the MRCS.



Written by : Michael Hegarty | Photo Credit: AHA Centre