Burmese students emerge as significant contributions in Myanmar’s Covid-19 response

By Sithu Moe, ASLF Alumnus
9 November 2020

Covid-19 story in Myanmar (Burma)

This time, the projects dove into these areas:

The COVID-19 crisis in Myanmar is the biggest public and medical challenge in Burmese history. When the WHO characterized Covid-19 as a global pandemic on March 10, the Union Government formed the National-Level Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on March 13, 2020 led by State Counsellor H.E Aung San Suu Kyi.

On the 23rd March of 2020, two suspected abroad returnees tested positive for Covid-19 in Myanmar. As the leading university of Myanmar, University of Yangon’s Education board immediately moved to postpone the semester-end exam on the 24th of March to break the chains of transmission. Students from different parts of the country were sent back to their homes. All the universities in Myanmar were shut down in March as the contagion spread rapidly across the country. The first wave of the disease lasted about 4 months and the local transmissions were slowed down in July. After over a month without recording any cases, Myanmar reported its first contactless local transmission in Rakhine state on August 16, when a 26-year-old bank employee tested positive.

The Second Wave

In the days and weeks after the first contactless transmission, the number of affected patients would climb higher and higher. The second wave had arrived. Many Burmese people suffer from hypertension, diabetes and renal failure. People with such diseases would be seriously affected by COVID-19. Thus, there are significant challenges to control the COVID-19 in a major city like Yangon because the city has a large population.

University of Yangon Students’ actions to the Virus on country’s second wave

Ever since it became evident that the second wave had arrived, University of Yangon students adopted a precautionary and preventive project to help the public. The project was titled “YUitganic” and was designed by University of Yangon Environmental Club (YUEC) in coordination with the Yangon University Science Club (YUSC). After launching the project, the University of Information Technology Environmental Club (UITEC) joined the program as well. The project aimed to supply government hospitals, quarantine centers and places lacking sanitary supplies with eco-friendly quality hand sanitizer that meets environmental chemistry concepts in a timely manner. The project was launched on 21st of August and activated on 28th.

Students were advised by Dr. Aung Kyaw Swar, lecturer from the Department of Chemistry at University of Yangon on how to go about producing the hand sanitizer. Head Professor Dr. Ni Ni Than and the Department of Chemistry provided students with laboratory and required manufacturing equipment.

Student members from the YUEC and YUSC clubs set up “YUitganic” with a starting capital of 1,500 USD and volunteered themselves for the project. As of 4th October, “YUitganic” has produced over 1,000 litres of WHO-recommended standard hand sanitizer and donated about 900 litres across lower Myanmar. The produced hand sanitizer is being made free and distributed to government hospitals and public health centers that offer chargeless healthcare service to civilians as a priority.

Aung (Chemistry 2nd Year-Honors Student) performing in Laboratory

“YUitganic” was expanded with “University Safe Program” after 1 month of its launching. The expanded program carries out disinfection and sanitizes the campus with dilute sodium hypochlorite solution to ensure the safety of resident staff, teachers and their families.

Students sanitizing the university campus

Regarding this students’ project, there has been much interest. The national broadcasting channel – MRTV (Myanmar Radio and Television) recorded student efforts and broadcasted it on television. As the pandemic progressed, it became clearer that more amount of health supplies would be needed to apply to public and “YUitganic” doubled its production.

Htet (Chemistry 3rd Year Student) homogenizing Sanitizer

Furthermore, 2000 litres of hand sanitizer production will be supported by KBZ Bank, the largest privately-owned bank of Myanmar.

Students want to provide preventive measures as well as measures to ensure that the livelihoods of people are not unduly affected as much as they can. Although students cannot get directly involved with medical treatments, University of Yangon students believe that they can reduce the possibility of infection to a great degree by enhancing the awareness of preventive measures. Students hope to end and overcome the crisis if they act and fight the virus together.

Myanmar is currently experiencing a serious increase in infections and in deaths. As of the 3rd of October, Myanmar ranks 4th in South-East Asia region and 28th in Asia continent with 15,525 confirmed cases and 353 deaths. The Union Government and Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) are also working the best of their ability for the health of the people.