Helping workers affected by COVID-19 in MyanmarMay 27, 2020
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a large number of workers in the Yangon Area of Myanmar have lost their jobs. These losses are largely due to factory closures caused by a shortage of raw materials and a global decline in trade.
To support Myanmar’s COVID-19 preparedness and response, the Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT) is funding a psychosocial counselling program as part of the “Aye Chan Thaw Ein” project, implemented by People in Need (PIN), its Alliance2015 partner Helvetas, and other local NGOs. The COVID-19 Phone Line Counselling helpline, which is being implemented with the service provider Call Me Today, will give workers who have lost their jobs access to free, specialized counselling services over the phone until the end of August.
Psychosocial support for 500 families
The program aims to provide psychosocial support to a group of 500 workers and their families in the industrial district of Shwe Pyi Thar Township. These families can access free counselling services by phone six days a week (every day except Wednesday) for several hours in the afternoon and evenings.
The free, confidential psychosocial counselling sessions are provided by eight qualified mental health professionals. Sessions last one hour and can help callers deal with feelings of depression or anxiety. Callers can remain anonymous, and any data given to the counsellors is kept confidential.
Ma Nyein Nyein Ei, Skills and Migration Development Manager from Helvetas Myanmar, explains: “Workers are facing a variety of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help them deal with this situation, they have to be healthy and maintain their mental well-being. They have led difficult lives, and now they can share their feelings with trustworthy counsellors, who can help them deal with stress and relieve some of their worries and concerns.”
Counselling over the phone can also be helpful for those who are self-isolating due to COVID-19. Ko Kyaw Zin, the founder of Call Me Today, says: “If you are coping with stress or pressure, we are here for you. Call any of our mobile numbers (09885362489, 09782383145, 09985055664, or 09685223055) from 1PM to 4PM or 7PM to 10 PM.”
Online support through Facebook
As part of the counselling program, Call Me Today has also launched a private Facebook group with information about social psychology, counselling, and tips for finding mental health support.
Francesco Melara, Consortium Coordinator for PIN Myanmar, says: “Now, more than ever, there is a need to support workers, and this is one of several services that are currently being provided. The ‘Aye Chan Thaw Ein’ Worker Centers in Shwe Pyi Thar Township are also active and playing an important role in providing career services and paralegal support to workers.”
Hygiene items for 8,000 people
PIN, in coordination with another consortium partner, Community Development Association (CDA), is also providing soaps and hand sanitizers to some 8,000 migrants and host community households in Shwe Pyi Thar Township, Yangon Region. Additionally, handwashing liquids and sanitizers were distributed to quarantine centers and worker centers, along with health posters and pamphlets from the Ministry of Health and Sports. Finally, PIN distributed megaphones and sound systems to each ward administrative committee so that it can pass along COVID-19 related health and prevention messages to residents in the area.