The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar called Wednesday for international emergency engagement to address a “perfect storm” deepening the COVID-19 crisis in Myanmar due to a health care system collapse. 

“An explosion of COVID cases, including the Delta variant, the collapse of Myanmar’s health care system, and the deep mistrust of the people of Myanmar of anything connected to the military junta are a perfect storm of factors,” said Tom Andrews.

They “could cause a significant loss of life in Myanmar without emergency assistance by the international community,” he said.

He also said the junta must account for the $350 million in COVID aid that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) provided to the people of Myanmar only days before the Feb. 1 coup d’état.

Andrews issued a statement on the final day of the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which had passed a resolution on the rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar that was adopted without a vote.

The council had urged Myanmar to take all measures necessary to reverse and abandon policies, directives and practices that marginalize Rohingya Muslims and other minorities.

They include preventing the destruction of places of worship, cemeteries, infrastructure and all commercial or residential buildings.

In his statement, Andrews said: “The highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, and that right is being denied to most within Myanmar. The international community must act.”

He reiterated his call at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on July 7 for an “emergency coalition for the people of Myanmar” to provide emergency humanitarian aid.

– ‘Junta lacks resources’

“The junta lacks the resources, the capabilities, and the legitimacy to bring this crisis under control,” Andrews said.

“The crisis in Myanmar is particularly lethal because of the pervasive mistrust of the military junta.”

He said the international community must help facilitate a non-junta body to coordinate a COVID response initiative that includes a vaccination program trusted by the people of Myanmar.

UN member states, international organizations, regional bodies and non-government organizations willing and able must provide aid before untold numbers perish “and Myanmar becomes a super spreader of this deadly virus.”

Andrews highlighted the acute need for greater amounts of life-saving aid to treat COVID.

“There is a major lack of capacity including oxygen support to treat those suffering from the virus,” he said. “People are dying because of a shortage of medical resources and trust.”

“Myanmar’s prison population, including the thousands of political prisoners who have been arbitrarily detained since the coup, are in grave danger. Prisoners, particularly those with underlying conditions, could see their detention become a death sentence,” Andrews warned.

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