11 May 2021
The military coup in Myanmar (Burma) on 1 February 2021 has gripped the heart of the international healthcare community. The situation is escalating rapidly as the junta attempts to suppress peaceful protest by lethal force. The dignified protests by the people of Myanmar are in the main organised and led by healthcare workers in the vanguard of the country’s Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). It is now apparent that hospitals and healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, are targeted for arrest and worse by the Myanmar police and army. Our dermatology colleagues – consultants, trainees and nurses – in Myanmar are no exception. They are barred from their public and private hospitals; indeed, many are in hiding because of the constant fear of arrest, serious injury or death. As a consequence, they are no longer able to care for acutely ill patients in any healthcare settings.
The Burma Skincare Initiative (BSI), founded by Su Mar Lwin and Chris Griffiths, is a UK-based charity that was established under the Aung San Suu Kyi-led civilian government of Myanmar in 2018. It has as its mission the promotion of excellence in skincare for the people of Myanmar. With the support of the international dermatology community, the BSI has worked in close partnership with Myanmar dermatology colleagues and the civilian government-led Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports, to provide training, fellowships, funded research studies and the first international dermatology meeting in the country in February 2020. On the last day of the international meeting, a Roundtable discussion, was held to discuss the sustainability of the BSI. This was very well attended by key stakeholders, including Dr Thinn Thinn Hlaing (THET Country Director for Myanmar). Consequently, close collaborations exist with dermatology centres in Yangon and Mandalay and the BSI remains in contact with their staff.
The gravity of the situation in Myanmar is immense and devastating for the population whose future hangs in the balance; each day brings new developments and an escalation of violence. In these arduous times, healthcare and skincare, particularly for disadvantaged communities, are severely compromised. We are working closely with the global healthcare community to help support our colleagues on the ground in Myanmar. Essential emergency healthcare is more than the immediate care of the critically injured but is about preserving the fabric of comprehensive healthcare of which skincare is a part. It is our Burmese colleagues’ wish that we, the global dermatology community, continue to provide educational and clinical support via online media and teledermatology, tailored to the current crisis in Myanmar, and steadfastly support them by adding our voice to their courageous and inspirational peaceful protests against the junta.
Myanmar and international dermatology speakers and delegates of the 1st International Dermatology Meeting in Myanmar, organised by the Burma Skincare Initiative (BSI), Yangon, February 2020.