Friday, July 25, 2008

Food top priority for Burma's cyclone victims

Nearly three months after the killer Cyclone Nargis played havoc in Burma's southwestern coastal region, hundreds of thousands are still not getting enough food, the United Nations World Food Programme said on Friday .

"The situation remains dire in Myanmar [Burma] ," said Chris Kaye, WFP's Country Director for Burma on Friday. "The vast majority of families simply don't have enough to eat."

Kaye said hunger is a huge threat and that comes in the way of victims concentrating in other fields of reconstruction and rebuilding their lives.

"Hunger remains a very real threat, and if people are hungry, they can't focus on restructuring their livelihood," Kaye said.

--Read More: here

700,000 Myanmar children need long-term aid: UNICEF

The United Nations and the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) have estimated that it will cost about US$1 billion in total to rebuild Myanmar after the cyclone. -- PHOTO: AP

GENEVA - AROUND 700,000 children are in need of long-term aid in Myanmar due to the devastating effects of May's Cyclone Nargis, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday.

'While we have observed a gradual improvement in the situation for children, and have avoided the emergence of major epidemics, we must maintain our efforts,' added UNICEF's Myanmar representative Ramesh Shrestha in a statement.

The agency has launched an appeal for just over US$90 million (S$122.5 million) it needs for operations through to April 2009. To date, it has raised less than half of that sum.

The United Nations and the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) have estimated that it will cost about US$1 billion in total to rebuild Myanmar after the cyclone left more than 138,000 people dead or missing and over two million survivors in need of aid.

In the crucial days after the cyclone hit, Myanmar's notoriously secretive leadership blocked access for foreign relief workers, raising fears thousands more people would die after being denied life-saving aid.

The junta only eased its stance after a personal visit by UN chief Ban Ki Moon, but aid groups say access to the worst-hit southern delta remains patchy. -- AFP

--source: Strait s Times

ASEAN: Political Situation in Burma Still Impeding Aid

By Ron Corben
25 July 2008

Burma will continue to require international aid to ensure communities hard hit by the devastation from Cyclone Nargis are able to avoid starvation. But, as Ron Corben reports from Bangkok, despite the help from the United Nations and Association of South East Asian Nations, senior ASEAN officials says the political situation in Burma continues to hinder their efforts.

The Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, is warning that the international community needs to continue to maintain support for relief operations in Burma.

Burma needs at least $1 billion in emergency relief and reconstruction over the next three years for the hardest hit areas in the Irrawaddy delta region that bore the brunt May 2 cyclone.

More than 130,000 people were killed or remain missing from the cyclone, with the total cost of rebuilding estimated at more $4 billion.

ASEAN, together with the United Nations and Burma, formed the Tripartite Core Group after the international community pressured the Burmese government to open the country for more assistance.

Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN secretary general, told reporters Friday that recovery efforts are ongoing.

"The emergency, the recovery is still with us," he said. "That is solid. We are not going into any long-term planning."

The tripartite group this week released the Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA) report, based on surveys conducted by 250 officials and volunteers of the worst affected regions.

Puji Pujiono, a senior United Nations Development Program (UNDP) officer, said that while the political situation in Burma is impeding aid efforts, there has been some success in helping the hardest hit communities.

"Where we are standing now our colleagues, the political complication remains there, it will continue to be there for the months to come," he said. "The suffering is still there, people still lacking food, shelter and so on. But we have the mechanisms; we have done something right in this tripartite core group."

The storm wiped out around 4,000 schools and about 75 percent of health facilities and damaged or destroyed about 800,000 houses and more than 600,000 hectares of farmland.

Don Baker, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator in Burma, says the international community's continuing efforts remain vital for recovery.

"Nobody has died since the cyclone from starvation but when we did the PONJA survey more than half of the population at that time only had food supplies for one day," he said. "So we have to keep the food going until the next harvest and even beyond because this next harvest is not going to be a full one."

The New York-based Human Rights Watch, while commending the Tripartite Core Group, warned assistance to victims was still being hampered by the military government.

Human Rights Watch said large numbers of people are still not receiving aid and face food shortages, shelter needs, lack basic sanitation and face grave psychological consequences from the cyclone's impact.

--Source: VOA