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Oxfam launches $200,000 Myanmar Cyclone Appeal

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Oxfam launches $200,000 Myanmar Cyclone Appeal

Agency says aid effort will face huge challenges

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Oxfam New Zealand today launches a Myanmar Cyclone appeal, calling on the New Zealand public to respond generously and donate $200,000 for the cyclone stricken area.

The devastating cyclone which hit Myanmar's delta region early Saturday, May 3, has left 22,500 people dead and 41,000 others missing, according to the latest figures provided by Reuters. The death toll is expected to rise.

"The aid effort faces huge challenges," said Sarah Ireland, Oxfam East Asia Regional Director. "Communications are down in the cyclone-hit areas, roads have been washed away, and getting aid to people will be very difficult. The international community needs to be quick to respond to this crisis and to ensure the needs of those most affected are met."

Like all international aid groups, Oxfam is facing tight government restrictions while working to meet the needs of thousands of very poor people affected by the cyclone.

"One of the first issues is dealing with clean water and sanitation to prevent disease," says Barry Coates, Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director. "Oxfam has specialist expertise to deliver support., We're assessing what we'll be able to do right now."

An estimated 24 million people — nearly half the country's total population — live in the five divisions and states struck by the disaster. When Cyclone Nargis slammed into the Irrawaddy delta it whipped up a massive storm surge reportedly four metres high. Reuters is reporting that Nargis is the most devastating cyclone Asia has seen since the 1991 storm that killed 143,000 people in Bangladesh.

"We need to remember that Hurricane Katrina resulted in under 2,000 deaths. The size of this disaster, by comparison, is enormous. The death toll is likely to climb as remote communities are contacted. Providing effective relief won't be a quick fix – the poor transport and communications, combined with the scale of the disaster, means that it will take many months for people to be able to recover from the loss of family and neighbours, rebuild their homes and re-establish their livelihoods," says Coates.

"This is another major disaster to hit a poor and vulnerable region of Asia. Oxfam's analysis of natural disasters has documented the increased scale and frequency of extreme weather events, likely to be associated with climate change. In Myanmar, as in previous disasters, it is the poorest of the poor that are being hit the hardest. We are calling on the New Zealand public to respond generously to the people of Myanmar."

Oxfam currently does not run operational programmes in Myanmar. Oxfam will be responding to the crisis through partner organisations, working at a grassroots level so that the real needs of the people will be met. Oxfam plans to provide them with funding for local provisions, as well as emergency response equipment and technical expertise, Oxfam has vast experience working in these conditions, having worked through local partner organisations during the 2004 Asia Tsunami.

Donate to Oxfam's Myanmar Cyclone Appeal by calling 0800 400 666 (24hours), make an automatic $20 donation by calling 0900 600 20 or donate online at www.oxfam.org.nz


ENDS

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