Thursday, April 30, 2009

Basic amentiies dream to Nargis victims

On May 2, it will be exactly a year after Nargis lashed Burma’s coastal regions of Irrawaddy and Rangoon divisions. But many victims still continue to be threatened with insecurity in terms of food, not to mention reconstruction of their lives and getting back their normal livelihood, agencies said.Astrid Sehl, UN communication officer in Rangoon, told Mizzima that health, education, agriculture, water and sanitation for the victims are among the many areas that still need support.A good efforts by INGOs, the UN and even grassroots humanitarian assistant groups including local NGOs, said the need continues to be great with many of the victims, though they have received some form of aid and are still struggling for basic survival needs, a local aid worker said.“Many people in the delta are still struggling to get enough food to eat, even though they have received some form of aid. It is still insufficient,” he added.Sehl said, at least half a million people in the cyclone devastated areas are living in extremely vulnerable shelters, built for them by aid agencies, and might not withstand the coming monsoon.“Still, many people depend on food aid and live in emergency shelters…” said Sehl.

World Food Pragramme, which has three branch offices in the Irrawaddy delta of Bogale, Laputta and Pyapone Towns said scarcity of drinking water continues to be the primary concern of the victims, followed by shelter and rations for the people.
“Recent surveys have shown that levels of food insecurity - particularly in the southern and western areas of the delta - are still a serious concern,” said Chris Kaye, the country director for WFP in Burma.
The relief efforts of foreign aids to which Burma’s military rulers were initially reluctant to allow international agencies to provide aid to cyclone victims, the intervention by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon in mid-May persuaded the junta to start allowing aid agencies to help.Thereon Tripartite Core Group (TCG), formed with the UN, the Burmese government and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), spearheaded the relief and reconstruction efforts.According to the TCG, recovery from the devastation caused by Nargis will take up to three years and a funding of at least US 700 million.

Chris Kaye said WFP will continue providing food assistance for approximately 350,000 people in the delta, and as many as 250,000 people will continue to need their support until the end of November, which is the next harvest season.

“We continue to provide a standard food basket of rice, pulses, oil and salt,” said Kaye.WFP aid workers said they have reduced food distribution in Laputta. While they have distributed food to about 729 villages since May to December last year, they have reduced it to only 500 villages since January to April 2009.“We cut off aid distribution in some villages as they could manage by themselves but we have extended it to some. We want them to reduce their dependency on us,” said the WFP staff, who wished not to be named.

Similarly, Save the Children said it has continued providing assistance to the victims in sectors of education, health, clean water, sanitation, nutrition and livelihoods programmes and deployed about 800 staff in eight offices that the agency has opened in the delta.

“Save the Children has assisted a total of over 600,000 people, nearly one-quarter of them children, who were most affected by the cyclone,” Andrew Kirkwood, country director of the agency, told Mizzima.

He said the agency has helped 137,000 children go back to school; supported 40,000 families with cash grants to resume their livelihoods; and provided 60,000 people with drinking water through the height of the dry season, among other programmes.

Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it is shifting its focus on providing shelter for the victims at this moment.

Chris Lom, spokesman of IOM in Bangkok said, “We are now focusing on shelter and we will keep going as long as we have funding.”“We are currently working on shelter projects with funding from the European Community and others. The medical projects and social projects are going on,” he added.

Challenges remains to feed the basic anebties to Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma’s Irrawaddy delta, the United Nations agencies point out that much needs to be done in terms of relief and reconstruction of the lives of victims.Best of efforts by INGOs, NGOs and the UN, relief and reconstruction activities have greatly suffered from the government’s restriction on the movement of aid workers and the flow of relief, local aid workers said.A volunteer aid worker, who also works with the Care International, said the government continues to impose restrictions ranging from restrictions to move into the delta to controlling the flow of relief materials, causing s few aid agencies to pull out as they are unable to work independently.The volunteer, who requested anonymity, however, did not wish to reveal the names of the few NGOs which have pulled out of Burma protesting against the government’s restrictions.“All aid agencies could only work within the government’s permitted areas. It is impossible for them to work in places where the government has imposed restrictions,” the aid worker added.He said, an NGO, which has been operating in the lower region of Pyea Dagaung village in Pathein Township had to stop since last month after Burma’s Ministry of Social-welfare, Relief and Resettlement stopped them from continuing to work in the village.

He added that Care International had also ceased work in some places including Kawhmu Township in Rangoon division after facing severe restrictions by the regime.

“There is still restriction on visa for international relief workers and it continues restriction on travel to the delta particularly for foreign aid workers,” he said.

“It is almost impossible to work without their [junta] involvement. So it’s not 100 per cent effective,” he said.

“But it is still better than doing nothing,” he added.

Beside government restrictions, shortage of fund remains the greatest challenge, agencies said.

While the TCG, in its Post Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan (PONREPP) report, has estimated a need of US $ 700 million for the cost of three year mid-term recovery, so far it has only been able to generate about US $ 500 million.

The United Nations appeal for a total of US $ 477 million for emergency and recovery works until April could only generate only US$ 315 million, or 66 per cent of the appeal, according Astrid Sehl, the UN Communication Officer in Rangoon.

Chris Kaye of the WFP said though there are still a lot of sectors that need immediate attention, a major set back is shortage of funds.

“At least 250,000 people remain in need of ongoing food assistance in the absence of adequate livelihood support,” he added.

He said continued support from donors and the government remains essential and they have been receiving US$ 93 million or 80 per cent of their original request for funds of US$ 115 million.“The UN continues to call for support and engagement by the international community to help support all the 2.4 million affected people to recover fully,” said Astrid Sehl.

Save the Children said though most survivors have received some form of assistance, only a few have received enough assistance to enable them to fully recover.“More than 500,000 people including 200,000 children are still living in makeshift tents,” Andrew Kirkwood, director of Save the Children in Rangoon, told Mizzima.

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