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Efforts to help Myanmar cyclone victims still in relief phase, says top UN official

Efforts to help Myanmar cyclone victims still in relief phase, says top UN official

Clean-up efforts in the wake of storm devatation.
The operation to help people affected by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar is still in the relief phase, despite recent significant progress, the top United Nations humanitarian official stressed today as a new report assessing the disaster’s impact was released.

“Nearly three months after Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar, the Government and its humanitarian partners are continuing to assist the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable communities,” said Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes.

The Post-Nargis Joint Assessment Final Report – produced by the UN, the Government of Myanmar and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), known collectively as the Tripartite Core Group – is an analysis of the current needs of those living in the hardest-hit areas; the scope of the damage in all cyclone-affected areas; and the loss of income resulting from the storm.

It puts a $1 billion price tag on recovery needs over three years, taking into account such areas as education, health, rebuilding livelihoods, infrastructure, agriculture and the environment.

“Immediate relief, early recovery and medium-term recovery programs will all need to be accompanied by strong mechanisms to track aid, coordinate programs and monitor progress,” noted the report, which was completed in less than five weeks with the support of numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

“Effective coordination, progress monitoring and aid tracking will be extremely important to ensure that the efforts of Government, UN agencies, international donors, national and international NGOs and the private sector combine to produce effective results for the people of the affected areas.”

As of late June, the official death toll from Cyclone Nargis stands at 84,530, with a further 53,836 listed as missing. Data shows that 2.4 million people were severely affected by the storm, with up to 800,000 having been forced to flee their homes.

Speaking at the launch of the report on the margins of the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Singapore, Mr. Holmes said today’s report is valuable on several fronts.

“First and foremost,” he said, the document relates “how much we still have to do on the emergency relief side in so many of the key sectors” to ensure that aid continues to help those who need it most.

It also assures donors and development partners that their contributions are being put to effective use, Mr. Holmes, who also serves as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said.

And lastly, “I believe the report tells an important part of the story of Cyclone Nargis: not of the devastating toll, with nearly 140,000 people dead and missing, but of the extraordinary resilience and courage of the people of the delta themselves, who not only survived the cyclone but have already begun to rebuild their lives in a spirit of solidarity.”

Earlier this month, the Coordinator issued a $482 million revised appeal to help the cyclone’s victims. With $178 million already committed in response to the original Flash Appeal launched shortly after the cyclone hit Myanmar in May, currently $303.6 million is still needed.

“I hope donors will go on responding generously to this emergency relief and recovery appeal,” said Mr. Holmes, who will travel to Myanmar tomorrow for his second visit to the country since the storm struck. “I am glad to see the high degree of complementarity between the Appeal and this assessment because this will ensure that the results of our work will be sustainable in the long run.”

Welcoming the new report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced hope that it will “help guide the relief and recovery efforts in Myanmar to ensure that the short- and medium-term needs of Cyclone Nargis survivors are properly addressed,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

Mr. Ban also congratulated ASEAN for its role in coordinating the Tripartite Core Group, which he believes “serves as a very good basis for further cooperation between the Government of Myanmar, ASEAN and the United Nations.”