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Royal Colleges across the UK illuminate to mark the second anniversary of deadly military coup in Myanmar

31 January 2023


Tomorrow, 1st February— two years since the deadly coup in Myanmar took place—Royal Colleges across the UK are lighting up their buildings in red in a moment of solidarity and remembrance for health workers who have risked and lost their lives to provide care over the past year.

The gesture, led by the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET), and marked by Royal Colleges across the United Kingdom, is a tribute to the thousands of individuals who live in one of the deadliest countries in the world to be a health worker.

The institutions marking this moment include the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Pathologists, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, the Royal College of Radiologists, the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

Since the military coup in Myanmar, there have been:   

  • 707 recorded attacks on healthcare   
  • 55 health workers have been killed  
  • 75 health facilities damaged 
  • 100 health workers have been injured.

For the past two years, members of Royal Colleges and the broader UK health community, including the Myanmar diaspora in the NHS, have come together to support their colleagues in Myanmar through the provision of training and humanitarian assistance. 

“The BMA, as the professional body representing all doctors and medical students in the UK, sends a strong message of solidarity to our colleagues in Myanmar, who continue to put their own lives on the line to provide vital medical cover in the most unimaginably difficult circumstances. We are part of the global medical family and stand shoulder to shoulder with them as they face continued and horrific assaults, including arrests of staff and violent attacks on healthcare facilities and workers themselves.
All nations must respect the fundamental principle of medical neutrality, which is enshrined in international law, so that medical care can be provided free from the threat of violence and aggression.”
Dr Latifa Patel, BMA representative body chair

“The Royal College of Physicians stands with its members and all healthcare professionals who have now endured the dangerous situation in Burma/Myanmar for two long years. Sadly, our concerns for the safety of our colleagues as they attempt to do their jobs are undimmed, and we must worry still for all those who rely upon them to protect their health and wellbeing. It is, and always will be, unacceptable that health professionals should face restrictions or violence as they attempt to do their jobs.”
– Dr Sarah Clarke, President, Royal College of Physicians

“As healthcare professionals, we strive to deliver the best possible care to the people we treat. Two years on, and we are still deeply concerned for the safety of healthcare workers in Myanmar. Everyone deserves the right to accessible and high-quality healthcare. Women and girls, who are always disproportionally impacted during times of crisis, deserve access to family planning services and safe maternity care. We believe health workers in Myanmar should be supported to deliver this care without fear of reprisal or harm.”
– Dr Ranee Thakar, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

“As a Royal College of Nursing we will continue to stand in solidarity with our nursing colleagues in Myanmar, and are deeply concerned by ongoing human rights abuses, including the deliberate targeting of health care workers. Nurses in Myanmar are risking their lives to keep their patients safe, it is vital to protect them in the work they do as they care for their patients, the international community has a duty to speak out together.”
– Sheilabye Sobrany, President of the Royal College of Nursing

‘RCPCH continues to support healthworkers across Myanmar in their continuing determination to provide life-critical health care to families, mothers, babies and children’
– Sue Broster, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

On February 1, the RCR will be joining other Royal Medical Colleges in lighting up our building in red in solidarity with health workers in Myanmar, who risk their lives to serve their communities and deliver essential care. We are pleased to be supporting such an important cause.”
– Dr Katharine Halliday, President of the Royal College of Radiologists

“The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh continues to stand with our Fellows and Members in Myanmar and with all healthcare professionals who are enduring the dangerous situation in the country. We are deeply concerned for the safety of our colleagues, their patients and the general public, who have all experienced great challenges to their health and well-being. It is unacceptable that healthcare professionals should face restrictions or violence – humanitarian law must be respected.”
– Professor Andrew Elder, President of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh

“It’s concerning and distressing that two years on from the coup, people in Myanmar are still suffering and healthcare professionals continue to be at high risk of violence and persecution for helping them.
The RCGP has strong and longstanding links to Myanmar, working with doctors there to raise the standard and quality of primary care. We continue to stand in solidarity with our brave colleagues living and working in the country. We urge the junta to respect international humanitarian laws, including those that protect people providing medical services and health interventions and medical facilities from violence, interference and harm.”
– Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs

Alongside the lighting of Royal Colleges buildings, a public demonstration will be held in Trafalgar Square, London, and an All-Party Parliamentary Group for Global Health event will take place in parliament. 

Photo: Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow lights up. Credit: RCPSG
Source: https://map.insecurityinsight.org/health

Notes to editor

About Health Partnerships for Myanmar: Health Partnerships between the UK and Myanmar have been established since 2014. Since the coup, the UK health community and the Myanmar diaspora here in the UK have come together to support partners and colleagues in Myanmar. 

Convened by the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET), representatives from over 30 institutions have continued to meet regularly over the past two years, cooperating on advocacy and initiatives to support the continued medical education of healthcare workers. 

Key achievements include: 

  • Advocacy and communication: garnering statements from key UK institutions, including the British Medical Association, Association of Medical Royal Colleges and the Royal College of Nursing, placing multiple stories in print and broadcast media, including the BBC, Channel 4 and The Guardian. 
  • Education: Online clinical guidance for health workers has been accessed over 24,000 times, serving thousands of doctors and nurses in Myanmar.
  • Virtual sessions on emergency treatment, clinical analysis and well-being are regularly delivered to thousands of nurses, midwives and GPs across Myanmar.

About THET: THET is a global health charity with a vision of a world where everyone has access to healthcare. For over 30 years, we have been working to achieve this by training and educating health workers in Africa and Asia in partnership with organisations and volunteers from across the UK. 

Founded in 1988 by Professor Sir Eldryd Parry, we are the only UK charity with this focus. From reducing maternal deaths in Uganda to improving the quality of hospital care for injured children in Myanmar, we work to strengthen local health systems and build a healthier future for all. In the past ten years alone, THET has reached over 100,000 health workers across 31 countries in Africa and Asia in partnership with over 130 UK institutions.

For further information or interviews please contact: amy.leach@thet.org
Imagery: Please find collated photos of the Royal Colleges lit up in red here.

This post was written by:

THET - External Engagement Team


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