The United Nations today appealed for $187 million to help provide humanitarian relief to some 1.5 million people severely affected by the recent cyclone in Myanmar for the next six months.
Launching the Flash Appeal in New York on behalf of 10 UN agencies and 9 non-governmental organizations, the UN’s top relief official emphasized that “the extent of the humanitarian catastrophe is enormous.”
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes noted that the number of those severely affected is between 1.2 and 1.9 million. But he added that “the numbers of people in need may well increase further as we come to understand better the situation on the ground.”
Cyclone Nargis, which struck the South-East Asian nation on 2 May, left a path of death and destruction across the Irrawaddy delta region and the country’s largest city, Yangon. The Government estimates that more than 22,000 people have died and over 41,000 remain missing.
Mr. Holmes noted that the number of deaths has been climbing daily and “could be anywhere between 63,000 and 100,000, or possibly even higher.”
Stressing the need to act quickly and for the Government to facilitate aid delivery, he said that “the sooner humanitarians are allowed in, and the less procedural and other obstacles we encounter, the more lives we can help save.”
He later told reporters that countries at the launch voiced strong hope that the cooperation which is necessary between the international community and the authorities in Myanmar will be “as forthcoming, as flexible, and as rapid as possible to make sure that not only material relief goods can get in but also humanitarian aid workers.”
Today’s Appeal covers 12 areas, with the largest portion of the funding sought for food, water and sanitation, logistics, health and shelter. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is seeking $56 million to provide daily food rations to 630,000 people in severely affected areas or temporary shelters.
Also, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has appealed for $10 million to assist poor farming and fishing communities devastated by Cyclone Nargis, which made landfall in the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) delta region last Friday and then moved on to Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon.
FAO said the five worst-affected areas – Ayeyarwady, Yangon and Bago Divisions, and Mon and Kayin states – are considered Myanmar’s food bowl, producing much of the country’s staple food of rice and fish, and the overall food security situation in Myanmar is “seriously threatened.”
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which is appealing for $3 million, said today that tens of thousands of pregnant women made homeless by the cyclone urgently need lifesaving assistance. UNFPA is working with humanitarian partners to mobilize emergency reproductive health supplies, including safe delivery kits, for those affected.
The agency added that disasters like Cyclone Nargis put expectant mothers and their babies at special risk because of the sudden loss of medical support, compounded by trauma, malnutrition and disease. Another $8.2 million is being sought by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to meet the critical needs of children and women in the wake of the tragedy.
Mr. Holmes said he will be allocating $20 million immediately from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to projects from the Flash Appeal to help ensure that the most urgent needs can be addressed quickly. Some $77 million has been pledged so far by countries, toward the Appeal and in bilateral assistance.