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Yangon, 2 Feb 11

Waiting and hoping for better times in cyclone-scarred Myebon. Photo © UN-HABITAT / U Maung Maung Myint

The United Nations said this week it was growing concerned that a shortfall in funding cyclone recovery in Myanmar would render some communities unnecessarily vulnerable ahead of the coming monsoon season.

Despite generous contributions by many donors and ongoing government support for emergency relief in the aftermath of last October’s Cyclone Giri, a significant gap in funding threatens to compromise early and medium-term recovery in the affected areas.

Total needs for post-cyclone relief, for which UN-HABITAT is handling shelter requirements, were estimated to be at least USD 57 million. So far, only USD 22 million has been provided.

“Humanitarian partners operating in Myanmar have been able to reach the affected areas and are providing crucial support directly to the people, in coordination with the Myanmar authorities,” said Bishow Parajuli, the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator in a statement.

“But funding constraints mean that many communities are left vulnerable. If shelters and embankments are not rebuilt before the monsoon season and farmers are unable to plant their crops this year, the people in these townships may face a prolonged crisis.”

Additional assistance is needed to support early recovery efforts in areas affected by Cyclone Giri, which struck Myanmar’s western Rakhine State on 22 October last year. Three months on, the problems of inadequate shelter, damaged crop and embankments, food insecurity and indebtedness due to loss of income opportunities still abound, according to recent assessments carried out jointly by UN agencies and non-governmental organizations operating in the areas.

The results from the assessments were presented last week a the monthly Myanmar Humanitarian Partnership Group meeting, attended by over 80 experts, heads of missions and UN agencies, diplomats and aid workers.

In the period following Cyclone Giri a substantial amount of emergency relief has been distributed by local authorities, non-governmental organizations, UN agencies and other humanitarian partners, covering the most basic needs of the affected populations in terms of food, reconstruction of schools, health services, temporary shelter supplies and to a very limited extent livelihood support.

But according to the Joint Assessment of Shelter/Housing Situation in Cyclone Giri Affected Areas, as of January 2011, an estimated 104,000 people are still living with host families in the four worst affected townships – Myebon, Pauktaw, Minbya and Kyaukpyu. The shelter support delivered so far has consisted primarily of tarpaulins and plastic sheeting, which are not adequate in the longer-term.

"Post disaster management is of growing importance to UN-HABITAT. The increasing frequency of disasters means that people have barely been resettled and rehabilitated before there are new emergencies," said UN-HABITAT's Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos. "Unfortunately, as the case of Myanmar shows, despite some support from the international community there is still regularly a shortfall in funding. Though we are all struggling through harsh economic times, we need to prioritize the needs of those displaced by natural disasters. We need to ensure their future. The pressure to build back better is greater than ever before."

In a presentation at the meeting, the Shelter Working Group chaired by UN-HABITAT, stressed that without additional external support, nearly 60 percent of affected houses will not be repaired or rebuilt before the next rainy season, increasing the risk of another humanitarian crisis.

Preliminary results from a joint Food Security and Livelihoods Assessment, presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), show that over 20 percent of households in the affected areas have a poor diet. Severe damage to embankments, crops, boats and fishing gear are reported. Around 60 percent of the 2010 rice production was been lost, and over 90 percent of all rice fields sustained damage in Myebon alone.

The funding shortfall echoes that of the response after Cyclone Nargis, which left some 140,000 dead and affected the lives of an estimated 2.4 million people in May 2008. Only one-third of the approximately USD 690 million needed for the Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan, covering up to the end of 2011, has been forthcoming, and funding for recovery activities in the Ayeyarwady Delta has nearly come to a halt.

According to recent estimates, official development aid to Myanmar has also fallen since 2008, despite a worldwide increase. Myanmar continues to be the lowest recipient of official development aid with an estimated USD 5 per capita in 2010, far below neighboring countries such as Laos and Cambodia.

“It is a worrying trend, and we appeal to all donors not to shy away from supporting emergency responses and longer-term humanitarian and development work in Myanmar, including efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals,” said Parajuli.

For more information, please contact:
The United Nations in Myanmar
Esben Q. Harboe
Special Assistant to the UN RC/HC
Tel: +95 9 5074853, esben.harboe@undp.org

Aye Win
National Information Officer, UNIC
Tel: +95 9 5123952, aye.win@undp.org

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