MYANMAR: Capacity challenges remain
More than 2 million people were affected by Cyclone Nargis in May 2008
YANGON, 12 January 2009 (IRIN) - More than eight months after Cyclone Nargis hit southern Myanmar, coordination in addressing the needs of cyclone survivors continues to improve, but huge challenges remain, particularly in capacity and resources.
"It's definitely improved over time," Thierry Delbreuve, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN in Yangon, the former Burmese capital.
More than two million people were affected when Nargis struck Myanmar's low-lying Ayeyarwady Delta on 2 and 3 May, leaving close to 140,000 people dead or missing.
Despite initial difficulties in terms of access, OCHA maintains six humanitarian hubs to support UN and NGO partners on the ground, as well as local authorities, in humanitarian and early-recovery activities.
The hubs are in the badly affected townships of Dedaye, Bogale, Labutta, Mawlamyinegyun, Patein and Pyapon.
"The challenge is more on early recovery now that the relief overall is phasing down," Delbreuve said.
support keeps coming, we are likely to see quite a few organisations or
groups leaving because they don't have the resources to continue their
However, pockets of humanitarian needs in remote areas still existed, he said, a fact underlined by the first of three Post-Nargis Periodic Reviews
- an analysis of more than 2,000 households in 108 communities across the Ayeyarwady and Yangon divisions released in December.
According to the report, although significant progress in relief and recovery assistance had been made, the relief stage was still not over and more aid was needed. Of particular concern were issues of nutrition, food and shelter.
Large numbers of households are still inadequately housed, often in overcrowded conditions with little protection from the heat and rain.
Of particular concern were a high proportion of households using plastic or canvas for their roofs or walls in affected communities.
In only about 10 percent of communities surveyed did every household report adequate living conditions, the same or better than before Nargis struck, the report revealed.
"Although assistance is having an impact, more assistance is required, both for the immediate relief items and for recovery assistance," Anish Roy, special representative of the ASEAN Secretary-General, a key partner of the Tripartite Core Group (TCG), which released the report, told IRIN.
Funds and capacity needed
|A high proportion of households are using plastic or canvas for their roofs or walls in affected communities
On 10 July, the UN re-launched a flash appeal on behalf of 13 UN organisations and 23 NGOs for emergency relief and early recovery efforts through April 2009 for a total of US$477 million, up from a previous $201 million.
As of 12 January, the appeal remained 64 percent funded at $306 million. In addition, agriculture and early recovery continue to be the least-funded sectors with only 25 and 39 percent respectively.
"Unless support keeps coming, we are likely to see quite a few organisations or groups leaving because they don't have the resources to continue their activities," Delbreuve warned.
"It's important that we keep the focus on Myanmar. Not just in terms of Nargis, but for other areas of the country as well," he said.
"Organisational capacity is critical. We need to maintain the operational capacity to respond," he said, noting that before Nargis there were few organisations in the country.
Window of opportunity
"Now we have a chance to do more because we have additional partners present and keen on continuing to work in Myanmar - not just in those areas affected by Nargis, but other areas of the country," he said.
"Donors still have a high interest in whether we can do business in Myanmar. There is also interest beyond Nargis and the possible entry point for longer-term programmes to support local communities and addressing some of the acute humanitarian needs, bearing in mind the challenges of access in other parts of Myanmar."
OCHA hopes to maintain its coordination structure in the delta at least until the end of the flash appeal in April.
"We have already undertaken discussions with UNDP [UN Development Programme] and other partners to ensure there will be a smooth transition and handover to more development-oriented agencies to manage the capacity on the ground," he said.