Traffic injuries are behind only malaria as a cause of death in Myanmar, also known as Burma, and when an American traveller and other passengers were severely injured recently in a bus accident, the Myanmar Red Cross was one of the first on the scene with its volunteers providing critical first aid.
Tun Ko Ko, 22, has been a volunteer with the Myanmar Red Cross since he was 10 ten years old. On the night of the accident, Ko Ko was working at the Myanmar Red Cross Emergency First aid station just 15 minutes away, and he and his fellow volunteers deployed to provide assistance.
At the scene of the overturned bus, they found nine dead, two more who would later die in route to the hospital, and five critically injured. The team instantly began helping the most severely injured first. One traveller was unconscious and not breathing but survived because of CPR administered to her by the team lead, Than Than Myint.
Glenn Washburn, a traveller from the United States, suffered an injury and was treated on the scene by Ko Ko and other Red Cross volunteers, then evacuated to a small nearby hospital for treatment. X-rays later showed Washburn had broken his collarbone. Throughout his ordeal, Ko Ko stayed with Washburn, helping him with whatever he needed and assisting with translation. Eventually Washburn was sent to the larger Yangon General hospital where he received additional treatment.
“Tun Ko Ko is a dedicated Red Cross volunteer and an admirable person,” Washburn said, reflecting back on the day. “At the scene of the accident he knew what he was doing and his English abilities were invaluable. He went far beyond his responsibilities and duties in helping me after the crash. I really can't thank him enough.”
Ko Ko beams with soft pride on hearing the praise. In a land where boasting is not common, he embodies the selfless spirit of volunteerism and is proud to serve Myanmar Red Cross. He knows his skills have saved lives, and more than just once.
“It takes resources to maintain this level of service in our communities and through the First Aid centers,” said Ko Ko, who like all Red Cross volunteers has been trained in basic first aid. He has also been trained in Community Based Health and First Aid and serves as a member of the Disaster Assessment Team of the Myanmar Red Cross. “It is important and I thank the Red Cross partners who help support these services to communities.”
The Myanmar Red Cross plays an important role in these situations by increasing volunteer capacity to provide first aid services. Since 2006, the American Red Cross, along with our Red Cross partners has supported first aid training, various health and disaster preparedness initiatives, and the strengthening of response capacity in Myanmar.
An increase in the number of cars in Myanmar has resulted in an increase in the death toll on the highways, with fatalities more than doubling over the past seven years. With the help of the Red Cross and volunteers like Ko Ko, first aid services and training will continue to save lives.