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Situation Remains Dire For Burma Cyclone Victims

Situation remains dire for Myanmar cyclone victims, UN agencies warn

25 July 2008 - Nearly three months after deadly Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of children and adults are in need of critical humanitarian assistance, two United Nations agencies on the frontlines of relief efforts said today.

"The situation in Myanmar remains dire," said Chris Kaye, Country Director for the UN World Food Programme (WFP). "The vast majority of families simply don't have enough to eat."

A joint assessment carried out by the Government, UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) stated similar concerns, confirming that more than 40 per cent of households lost all food stocks during the storm, which battered the country's southern coast in May.

The Post-Nargis Joint Assessment Final Report, released earlier this week, puts a $1 billion price tag on recovery needs over three years, taking into account such areas as education, health, rebuilding livelihoods, infrastructure, agriculture and the environment.

The assessment also found that 34 per cent of households reported having no food stocks on the day of the survey, and a further 45 per cent reported having enough to last only one to seven days. In addition, 89 per cent of households reported that food was their highest priority expenditure.

"Hunger remains a very real threat, and if people are hungry, they can't focus on rebuilding their livelihoods," Mr. Kaye said.

WFP has scaled up its emergency feeding programmes for 924,000 beneficiaries, which will last until next April. At the same time, it notes that the $112 million operation is facing a 52 per cent shortfall, and there are significant logistical challenges involved in moving food and relief supplies into and around the hard-hit Ayeyarwady Delta, particularly given recent heavy monsoon rains.

Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) today highlighted the plight of nearly 700,000 children under the age of 17 who are in need of longer-term assistance following the cyclone, which destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes, schools and health centres.

UNICEF's Veronique Taveau told reporters in Geneva that the aid and reconstruction programmes were moving forward and schools were being rebuilt. Some schools had re-opened a few weeks ago, giving hope for a better future for 6,000 children.

The agency has distributed education supplies and recreational kits to children in the affected areas and had set up temporary learning spaces. In a recent appeal, UNICEF requested $90.7 million for its humanitarian operation until April 2009. This would help ensure that children continued to have access to primary schools, ensure the treatment and prevention of malnutrition among children and pregnant women, and provide support in the field of water, hygiene and sanitation.


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