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Cablegate: Burma Cyclone: Usaid/Ofda Post Nargis Joint Assessment

O 020421Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7862
AMEMBASSY BANGKOK IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU IMMEDIATE
USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE
INFO NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS RANGOON 000528

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 POST NARGIS JOINT ASSESSMENT
CABLE

REF A): RANGOON 514, REF B) RANGOON 499

--------
SUMMARY
--------

1. Following the May 25 International Pledging Conference, the
Tripartite Core Group (TCG) coordinating body initiated the
Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA) to produce a common assessment
report that covers immediate humanitarian needs through the Village
Tract Assessment (VTA) and reconstruction needs by means of the
Damage and Loss Assessment (DALA). On June 24, the TCG released
information on several important sectors from the VTA at a meeting
with the international donor and response community. The
preliminary report was based on only 60 percent of the household
data and 50 percent of the key informant findings from the
assessment. Some donors and humanitarian agencies are concerned
that the lack of available baseline data may lead the survey to
confuse acute emergency and transitional needs with chronic needs
better addressed by long-term development programs. Most major
donors agree with the USAID/OFDA team that there may be a protracted
need for food assistance, but that issues such as food security and
shelter are best addressed by helping disaster-affected people
reestablish livelihoods. As the cyclone response in Burma shifts
from the acute emergency phase to early recovery, USAID/OFDA is
prioritizing livelihoods interventions to provide quick access to
income and employment for affected populations. End Summary.

-----------------------
OVERVIEW OF THE PONJA
-----------------------

2. The TCG was formed after the May 25 ASEAN-U.N. International
Pledging Conference in Rangoon. The TCG's stated objective is to
"facilitate trust, confidence, and cooperation between Myanmar and
the international community" for the relief effort. The nine-member
TCG includes three representatives each from the Government of Burma
(GOB), the U.N., and ASEAN.

3. Following the May 25 conference, the TCG initiated the PONJA to
produce a common assessment report that covers immediate
humanitarian needs through the VTA and reconstruction needs by means
of the DALA. The PONJA took place from June 10 to 20, involving 350
officials and volunteers from the GOB, ASEAN, and the U.N., and
supported by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and local
and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). After a
two-day training in data gathering methodologies, 245 VTA staff and
85 DALA staff were deployed for the assessments, supported by 20
staff in a coordination office in Rangoon. The PONJA report will be
published in Rangoon and submitted to the ASEAN Foreign Ministerial
Meeting July 20-21 in Singapore. The results will also inform the
U.N.'s revised appeal to be issued July 10, 2008.

4. The VTA focuses on the relief and early recovery needs of the
cyclone-affected population. The U.N. is the lead agency for the
VTA, through the Humanitarian Coordinator's Office, the U.N. Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the Myanmar
(Burma) Information Management Unit. More than 20 GOB personnel
from 18 ministries were involved in the assessment process at the
central Rangoon coordination office, hub coordination offices, and
in the field.

5. The VTA was designed to assess five percent of total villages in
the affected townships and provide results spatially. The survey
covered 30 townships, with approximately 1,300 village tracts and
6,000 villages. Data was compiled from June 21 to 23, and
preliminary findings were released on June 24 at a special meeting
of the ASEAN roundtable. The final VTA input into the PONJA report
is due on July 3.

6. The DALA focuses on estimating financial needs for longer-term
reconstruction. The ASEAN Emergency Rapid Assessment Team is the
lead for the DALA, with assistance from the World Bank, the ADB, and
the World Bank-managed Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and
Recovery (GFDRR). The GFDRR's mission is to mainstream disaster
risk reduction and assess disaster losses, in order to reduce
vulnerabilities to natural hazards.


7. The DALA primarily used secondary data, much of which was
obtained by the GOB. The methodology used was based on the U.N.
Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)'s Manual for
Estimating the Socio-Economic Effects of Natural Disasters. The
ECLAC approach is designed to evaluate the impact of disasters in
situations where little reliable quantitative information is
available, to guide post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction
processes. The approach has been in use for over 30 years.

------------------------------------
EVALUATION OF THE INITIAL PONJA DATA
------------------------------------

8. Limited access to the cyclone-affected areas and the consequent
inability to do early assessments engendered a desire within the
U.N. system to validate response initiatives undertaken to date.
The international community was also anxious to get information as
quickly as possible from the first comprehensive assessment of the
affected areas. Therefore, on June 24 ASEAN, the UN and the GOB
released preliminary information on several important sectors from
the VTA at a meeting with the international donor and response
community.

9. At the June 24 meeting in Rangoon, the VTA assessors reported
that 45 percent of households have received food through
humanitarian assistance, while 56 percent have obtained food from
the markets. Initial VTA data also indicated that 60 percent of
households reported that access to clean water is inadequate, and 22
percent of households noted suffering from psychological stress.
The cyclone severely damaged 59 percent of houses in affected areas,
according to the initial data. Approximately 60 percent of village
leaders stated that there were not enough seeds for the next
planting season and 78 percent of households reported a lack of
access to credit. The preliminary report, however, was based on
only 60 percent of the household data and 50 percent of the key
informant findings from the assessment. Some donors and
humanitarian agencies are concerned that the lack of available
baseline data may lead the survey to confuse acute emergency and
transitional needs with chronic needs better addressed by long-term
development programs.

10. In addition, due to the rapid assessment process, there was also
little context or nuance to the questions asked in the VTA. The
ambiguity in the information released so far has allowed different
humanitarian organizations to infer both that the response phase has
passed and that there is a need for a continuing and protracted
relief effort. In addition, the sectoral cluster leads have not
been able to develop definitive data on what has already been done,
what is being done, or will be done in the near future that will
address the needs and gaps identified in the survey. Donors want to
avoid pressure to provide additional, unnecessary relief commodities
that might divert funds from early recovery programs.

------------------------------
USAID/OFDA TRANSITION STRATEGY
------------------------------

11. To date, findings from the PONJA assessments are consistent
with USAID/OFDA assessments that rebuilding efforts are underway in
the Irrawaddy Delta and markets are rebounding. The VTA identified
only five villages that had not received any assistance, which was
immediately rectified. In addition, the lack of prolonged
displacement, establishment of an early warning health surveillance
system, use of rainfall collection systems for drinking water, and
quick interventions in shelter, health and water, sanitation and
hygiene sectors so far appear to have prevented significant disease
outbreaks above seasonal norms. The humanitarian community's
priorities are to continue monitoring the situation, to provide
targeted emergency interventions when and where needs are
identified, and to support early recovery programs, such as
providing inputs to restart agricultural and non-agricultural
activities.

12. USAID/OFDA programs will continue to target the emergency needs
of the most vulnerable population through September 2008. As the
emergency phase winds down and the early recovery phase begins,
however, the program focus will shift to livelihood activities that
provide quick access to income and productive employment.
USAID/OFDA intends to fund programs in the following areas:

-Provision of agricultural inputs to households with the ability to
plant during the planting season, which runs from mid-July to
mid-August, in areas where planting during the current season is
still viable. Inputs may include seeds, tools, tillers or draught
animals, and cash to hire laborers. (Note: Most major donors agree
with the PONJA assessment that there may be a protracted need for
food assistance. The extent of such assistance will largely depend
on the accomplishment of recovery activities and the degree of
success farmers have during the upcoming planting season. End
Note).

-Support to landless laborers to include Cash-For-Work (CFW)
programs and direct support programs such as backyard gardens and
tree crops.

-Support for non-agricultural livelihood activities, including
fishing, salt panning, forestry, small trades, and manufacturing.
Such activities will be designed to restore livelihood activities
that existed prior to the cyclone and to avoid significant movement
of labor into new activities.

-CFW programs to support small-scale infrastructure repair projects
and debris clearance. CFW activities will be designed to support
and reinforce other early recovery objectives.

13. Once the full data from the VTA is released and analyzed, the
USAID/OFDA team will review programming requirements and redirect
activities to meet any identified gaps. Until then, the USAID/OFDA
team's programming priority will be to meet the urgent requirement
for seeds and tools to support the upcoming planting season.

14. The USAID/OFDA early recovery strategy and planned activities
are consistent with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization
assessment report, the U.N. Development Program guidelines for early
recovery, the early recovery cluster strategy, the interagency cash
working group, and assessment reports drafted by USAID and U.S.
Embassy Rangoon officers.

VILLAROSA

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