Donations Pour in as People of Myanmar Dig Deep to Help Cover Cost of Vaccine

Yangon—Contributions continue to pour in to help Myanmar’s government cover the cost of a COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals, tycoons, businesses, and religious organizations responded immediately to a government request for help on Jan. 5.

Within two days of the request, the government received 1.3 billion kyats (US$980,000) from 117 donors and $2.5 million from five donors as of last Thursday. And that total is expected to rise when new data on donations are announced by the government.

Myanmar has ordered 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, which is producing vaccine called COVISHIELD that was developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

The vaccines are due to arrive to Myanmar by February and the country must initially pay $75 million, half the amount for the vaccine orders, upon delivery.

Myanmar is also trying to buy COVID-19 vaccines from China, the UK, the US, and Russia through diplomatic channels.

The government initially earmarked $251 million of its funds and on Jan. 5 sought help from the public to cover the expense. The response was swift.

The Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, which was established by Myanmar’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, earmarked a donation of 10 million kyats and began accepting public donations. The foundation told The Irrawaddy that it had collected more than 200 million kyats as of Monday.

“Our citizens are very united whenever the country faces urgent matters. Many people are now donating after the government raised funds for COVID-19 vaccine. That is gratifying,” said U Thant Thaw Kaung, an executive committee member of the foundation.

He said that individual donations ranged between 10,000 kyats and several hundred million kyats for the country’s COVID-19 vaccine fund.

According to the foundation, U Lun Gywe, Myanmar most famous impressionist artist, on Monday donated 50 million kyats to the government via the foundation after putting 20 of his paintings up for auction in a single day.

The foundation on Tuesday transferred 200 million kyats to the account of the government COVID-19 vaccine fund.

The foundation also said that whenever it receives 100 million kyats in donations it will transfer the amount to the government accounts immediately.

On Monday, KBZ Bank, which has already contributed more than $10.5 million to the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, announced that it has donated another 3 billion kyats to the government for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccine.

Haji U Myint Tun, a member of the Assistance Committee of the COVID-19 response under the Islamic Religious Affairs Council Myanmar (IRACM), told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the IRACM is planning to donate 1 billion kyats to the government to buy vaccines.

Currently, the committee has collected more than 533 million kyats from 67 donors and they will transfer those contributions to the accounts of government’s COVID-19 vaccine fund.

Haji U Myint Tun, who is also a chairman of the Bayintnaung Automobile Spare Parts Market, said the market is also planning to donate a total of 100 million kyats for the vaccine purchase. Currently, they have already transferred more than 50 million kyats to the government’s vaccine fund.

“As citizens, we believe that we are responsible to assist our country when it needs help,” said Haji U Myint Tun.

He added, “While the government is trying [to vaccinate] all citizens without discriminating over religion or skin color, we feel we should assist the government as much as we can. Therefore, we contribute to our government.”

Also, the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) announced on Saturday that it has earmarked 150 million kyats for the country’s COVID-19 vaccine fund and is also accepting donations from members.

Last week, tycoon U Chit Khine, chairman of one of Myanmar’s biggest conglomerates, Eden Group, donated $1.5 million to the government for the vaccine purchase effort.

Another tycoon, U Zaw Zaw, the chairman of the Ayeyarwady Foundation, who has already contributed more than $11 million to the country’s fight against the pandemic, has now donated another 2 billion kyats for vaccines.

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s military donated 1 billion kyats.

Since Dec. 19, Myanmar has seen a decline in daily COVID-19 cases. Fewer than 1,000 cases are now being reported per day, down from a peak of more than 1,400 daily cases.

As of Monday, Myanmar had reported 131,186 COVID-19 cases including 2,858 deaths and 114,609 recoveries.

In ASEAN, Myanmar is fourth in terms of COVID-19 cases behind Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.

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Source: The Irrawaddy

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