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Cablegate: Burma Cyclone: Usaid/Ofda Situation Report #33

O 010653Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7858
AMEMBASSY BANGKOK IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU IMMEDIATE
USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE
INFO NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS RANGOON 000526

AIDAC

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, PRM, DRL
STATE ALSO PASS TO USAID
AID/W FOR DCHA/FFP AND DCHA/OTI
AID/W FOR DCHA/OFDA KLUU, ACONVERY, RTHAYER
BANGKOK FOR DCHA/OFDA WBERGER AND TROGERS
KATHMANDU FOR DCHA/OFDA SMCINTYRE AND MROGERS
USMISSION GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
USMISSION USUN FOR FSHANKS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID SENV KSCA TBIO VM EAGR PREF
SUBJECT: BURMA CYCLONE: USAID/OFDA SITUATION REPORT #33

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SUMMARY
-------

1. According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA), initial analysis of the preliminary village tract
assessment (VTA) data suggests that widespread destruction was
caused by strong wind combined with storm surge and excessive
rainfall, faulty early warning systems, and inadequate village
disaster response plans. On June 26, the USAID Office of U.S.
Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) logistics officer traveled
with the head of the logistics cluster to observe the distribution
of relief commodities by helicopter, as well as warehousing
operations at the logistics hub in Bogale township. On June 25, the
Government of Burma (GOB) granted the U.N. World Food Program (WFP)
approval to resume a cash transfer program in nine townships in
Rangoon Division. The nutrition cluster noted that the preliminary
results from the VTA appear in line with the results of rapid
nutrition assessments. End Summary.

------------------------------
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
------------------------------

2. According to OCHA, initial analysis of the preliminary VTA data
suggests that widespread destruction was caused by strong wind
combined with storm surge and excessive rainfall, faulty early
warning systems, and inadequate village disaster response plans.
The preliminary VTA data indicates that in the aftermath of the
cyclone, the number of people reporting agriculture as a main source
of income declined from 34 percent to 22 percent, while individuals
reporting fishing as the main source of income declined from 16
percent to 8 percent. The assessment found that coping mechanisms
were under strain, with 79 percent of respondents reporting a lack
of access to credit, reducing capacity to restart livelihoods
without some form of external assistance.

3. Initial assessment data also indicates that 72 percent of schools
and educational facilities, 57 percent of religious institutions,
and 23 percent of health facilities need rehabilitation in the areas
surveyed. The Tripartite Core Group (TCG) indicated that the
findings were based on only 60 percent of the household data
collected and 50 percent of the key informant interview data. The
results may shift once the full dataset is available.

4. The GOB New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported that the GOB Port
Authority has repaired six jetties along Rangoon River, while
removing two other heavily damaged jetties. The repairs should
enable a better flow of vessels transporting commodities between
Rangoon and the Irrawaddy Delta or other regions.

5. On June 26, the Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN) traveled by helicopter to visit Bogale
township, Set San village and Kyein Chaung Gyi village in the
Irrawaddy Delta. In Bogale, the ASEAN Secretary-General was briefed
on cyclone damage and recovery efforts, and visited a school,
hospital, and temporary shelters.

-------------------------------
USAID/OFDA LOGISTICS ASSESSMENT
-------------------------------

6. On June 26, the USAID/OFDA logistics officer traveled with the
head of the logistics cluster to observe the distribution of relief
commodities by helicopter as well as warehousing operations at the
logistics hub in Bogale township. The logistics cluster helicopter
operations do not have refueling capability at the respective
logistics hubs and are therefore limited to the number of flights,
or rotations, that the helicopters can perform before returning to
Rangoon. The flights from the hubs are limited to 2 metric tons
(MT) of cargo per flight, and can offload in less than three
minutes.

7. The WFP Bogale logistics cluster warehouses are pre-positioned
temporary structures for use by the humanitarian community. The
food warehouse is a permanent structure located on the river about
300 meters from the helicopter landing pad. Off-loading of food aid
from the WFP-contracted barge was ongoing at the time of the
assessment. Food aid was being repositioned both to the WFP
warehouse in preparation for helicopter distribution and directly to
smaller boats for surface transport. All operations appeared to be
well coordinated and on schedule.

8. Neither the USAID/OFDA logistics officer nor the logistics
cluster head were approached by GOB authorities requesting to see
travel permission.

------------------------------
VTA METHODOLOGY AND CHALLANGES
------------------------------

9. The TCG reported that the VTA was designed to provide results
spatially, via a grid of assessment quadrants overlaying the 30
cyclone-affected townships. The VTA teams selected the nearest
village to the center of each quadrant for an initial assessment.
The teams then surveyed a minimum of two nearby villages. The VTA
reportedly surveyed approximately 5 percent of the 6,000 villages in
1,300 village tracts in the 30 affected townships. The VTA teams
also compiled population data throughout the assessment.

10. The TCG noted three challenges for the assessment at the June 24
presentation. VTA teams reported logistical challenges in traveling
to some of the identified villages, which were magnified by the
short timeframe for the assessment. Limited time for initial
training also led to some observed inconsistencies in the
interpretation of VTA questions by the assessment teams, leading to
possible biases in the responses. Certain questions in the VTA
questionnaire were poorly structured, resulting in low response
rates or subjective answers to the questions.

----------------
FOOD ASSISTANCE
----------------

11. The food cluster actively participated in analyzing food
security-related data for the VTA component of the Post-Nargis Joint
Assessment. The preliminary results from the VTA indicated that the
cyclone destroyed 42 percent of all food stocks in areas surveyed,
while partially destroying an additional 11 percent. VTA assessment
teams found that approximately 56 percent of households interviewed
obtained food from the markets, while approximately 45 percent
received food through humanitarian distributions. In collaboration
with cooperating partners, the WFP is planning to conduct a market
assessment survey on June 27, covering 35 markets across 21
townships in the Irrawaddy Delta. WFP will regularly monitor rice
prices following the assessment.

12. As of June 26, the food cluster has delivered 17,993 MT of food
assistance to affected areas, of which 9,198 MT has been
distributed. The food cluster noted the receipt of approximately
1,670 MT of vegetable oil supplied by USAID's Office of Food for
Peace, which arrived in Rangoon on June 23 and is currently moving
through the logistics pipeline. The food cluster has reached
approximately 729,000 beneficiaries with food and cash assistance as
of June 26. The cluster has provided food assistance to
approximately 684,000 beneficiaries in the Irrawaddy Division, and
provided cash transfers to 45,000 beneficiaries in Rangoon Division,
where markets are functioning and food is available.

13. On June 25, the GOB granted WFP approval to resume a cash
transfer program in nine townships in Rangoon Division. In
collaboration with four NGO partners, WFP is targeting a total
200,000 beneficiaries through the program, with a total allocation
of USD 2.7 million. Cash transfer activities resumed on June 26,
and WFP will accompany NGO partners to each township to explain
modalities of the cash distribution to local authorities.

14. The food cluster reported that the prohibition of local rice
purchases makes regional procurement a priority. The cluster is
continuing efforts to import rice from Thailand and India to avoid a
pipeline break. Planning for the local production of rice-based
blended food for young children is also ongoing. The cluster noted
that frequent population movements present a continuing challenge
when targeting food assistance.

-----------

NUTRITION
-----------

15. On June 26, the nutrition cluster meeting focused on better
coordination and mapping at the sub-township level, as there have
been instances of overlap and duplication in programming. The
cluster noted that the preliminary results from the VTA appear in
line with the results of rapid nutrition assessments.

16. Nutrition cluster representatives presented the GOB deputy
health minister with an overview of the cluster's objectives,
achievements, and challenges to date. The cluster noted continued
strong coordination with the GOB Ministry of Health (MOH). The GOB
MOH has established four hospital-based therapeutic feeding units in
collaboration with the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF has
also provided more than 200 MT of ready-to-use therapeutic food to
partners, which are implementing supplementary and therapeutic
feeding programs in affected areas.

VILLAROSA

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