Following a deadly disease outbreak that has taken the lives of dozens of children in a remote area of Sagaing Region, the health ministry has deployed basic medical staff to the underserved community.

The Ministry of Health appointed 56 basic health staff, including 27 midwives, to fill the void of health services in the Naga Self-Administered Zone, according to U Thein Zaw, deputy director of the General Administration Office.

He said that six health staff will work in Leshi township, nine in Nanyun and 41 in Lahe. The health staff, who volunteered for six-month rotations, were culled from among government health staff working in other states in regions.

According to the Department of Public Health, the health staff were assigned starting on September 4.

Previously there were no government health workers, and no formal health clinics in the self-administered zone. Until rural health clinics can be establish, the medical professionals have been advised to offer home-based treatment.

“As most health staff do not want to come to this region, we accepted volunteers for six months at a time,” said U Thein Zaw.

The Naga Self-Administered Zone is still reeling from a deadly measles outbreak that was first reported in June. The infection went undiagnosed, and largely untreated, for nearly two months. The Department of Public Health announced in August that blood tests confirmed the outbreak as attributable to measles, a viral, vaccine-preventable disease.

Measles vaccination is included in the routine national program, but Lahe and Nanyun townships were not covered.

“The measles outbreak situation in Lahe township is stable but common health problems still remain,” said U Thein Zaw.

Health workers believe one of the reasons that the infection spread so quickly and was so deadly among children in the Naga zone was an underlying issue of chronic malnourishment.

By the public health department’s count, 56 people in Lahe township and another 40 in Nanyun township died in the disease outbreak between June to August.

The 56 health staff have been tasked with providing health and sanitation awareness, bringing children up to date on vaccinations, controlling malaria and TB, and addressing the nutrition problems, according to Dr Than Htun Aung, deputy director general of the Department of Public Health.

According to state media, the Saging Region government donated K1.14 million and the Department of Public Health provided K7.8 million to improve health services in the Naga Self-Administered Zone.