First Person: supporting migrants on the COVID-19 frontline in Myanmar

Myanmar has been preparing for the return of hundreds of thousands of workers – some 650,000 are in Thailand alone – and one of the key tasks was to set up quarantine facilities for those returning migrants. Sandi Swe, who has been working in a quarantine facility since March 2020, shared her experience with UN News. 

April should have been a month of festivities, celebrating Thingyan – the Burmese New Year – but this year has been unlike any other, because of the measures Myanmar has taken to curb COVID-19. As the news of the global pandemic spread, Myanmar’s migrant workers began to return home, and the country has prepared for mass returns by providing safe quarantine facilities. 

Many were established in the border town of Myawaddy, in Kayin State; men and women sheltered in different facilities, and I volunteered to support women migrant returnees. 

I work for a local Myawaddy-based organization, Migrant Monitoring Group (MMG) and, before the pandemic, I had provided awareness-raising training to migrants. I decided to volunteer, even though I was worried, because it didn’t feel right to let fear get in the way. It was simple: everyone needed help, and I could provide that help. 

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