Friday, 16 May 2008

Deep wounds and broken bones, but no medical aid

THANN LITE, Burma: Something hard and heavy slammed into Ko Kyaw Win's leg as he clung to a coconut tree, fighting for his life against hurricane-force winds and a surging torrent strong enough to bend steel.

The object swirling in the six-metre swell smashed a hole in the fisherman's right shin. At the time, it was the least of his worries.

Somehow, the 45-year-old hugged the tree-top long enough to remain among the living, surviving on coconut milk for five days. But after beating bad odds, Ko Kyaw Win fears a new fight: his festering leg wound is infected, and no medical supplies remain in his Irrawaddy delta village.

He is one of thousands of survivors across southern Burma waiting for medical care. Since the cyclone on May 3, no doctor has visited the seven villages where nurse U Tin Hling is the only trained medical worker. He ran out of medicine, bandages and his meagre medical supplies days ago.

Dozens of others in this small village and six more nearby need urgent medical help, including 18-month-old Ma Pyi Pyi Po, whose right eye is swollen half-shut. There are villagers with infected wounds, deep cuts from flying corrugated sheets and other debris and broken bones that have not been set properly.

The only treatment Ko Kyaw Win received for his raw, red leg wound, which throbs with pain, is a few dabs of rubbing alcohol to clean out some of the dirt in the torn flesh.

The nurse gave him a few tablets of what he called metro, short for metronidazole. U Tin Hling said the drug is a painkiller. Actually, it is for dysentery, vaginitis, several other infections and gum disease. It is the only medicine the nurse has got in emergency aid from the military: two boxes, 4600 tablets. They are all gone.


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