The head of the United Nations food agency today called for greater support for its growing relief operations in Myanmar in the wake of last month's devastating cyclone after wrapping up a two-day visit to the country's hardest-hit areas.
Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) met with both victims of Cyclone Nargis and with Government officials during her visit to discuss how to help relief and recovery programmes, especially in the Ayeyarwady Delta region.
“What we need is a seamless global lifeline of relief supplies,” Ms. Sheeran said. “Progress has been made, but urgent work remains on the critical last leg.”
WFP still needs nearly two-thirds of the $70 million it requested to pay for food assistance operations, while its logistics operation has a shortfall of $32 million.
“There is so much work to be done which requires sustained support by the international community,” the Executive Director stressed. “With current contributions, we will run out of food by mid-July.”
UN humanitarian officials estimate that more than 77,000 people have been killed and 55,000 others are missing since Cyclone Nargis struck on 2 May. As many as 500,000 to 600,000 people, mainly in the delta, have had to be relocated.
During her talks, Ms. Sheeran thanked Myanmar officials for granting visas to WFP's international staff, but also urged an end to the bureaucracy delaying the deployment of the workers into the delta. While access has improved, she said Government procedures for clearing the deployment of workers remained a constraint.
WFP says that it has so far handed out a first ration of rice to about 575,000 people, but added that many people have not been reached and others now need a second round of food.
Ms. Sheeran said that she was encouraged by the start of a new WFP project in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city, which provides cash to 200,000 people whose lives have been uprooted by Cyclone Nargis. Under the project WFP and four aid partners provide about 50 cents – equivalent to the cost of a food basket in the local markets – per person each day for four weeks.
“WFP is committed to being resourceful and finding better ways to reach a large number of people who are struggling to put their lives back together. This project allows us to focus our food delivery efforts on the delta, where most food stocks have been destroyed and markets are not functioning properly.”