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Support Needed To Rebuild Myanmar After Cyclone

UNICEF appeals for support six months after cyclone devastates Myanmar

31 October 2008 – Six months after deadly Cyclone Nargis swept through Myanmar, leaving around 140,000 dead or missing and some 800,000 homeless, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that emergency relief efforts are on track, but vital support is still needed for the country’s medium to long-term recovery.

“As much damage and suffering as the cyclone has caused, it is also a chance to build back better,” said Ramesh Shrestha, the UNICEF Representative in Myanmar. “Now is the time to bring permanent solutions to improve the lives of children and their families and the future generations.”

While planning for longer-term solutions, the agency has helped nearly 400,000 children in 2,500 schools in the devastated country by providing essential learning kits, school kits for teachers and psychological training to help children cope with the trauma of the cyclone.

An estimated 2.4 million people were affected by Cyclone Nargis, which battered Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Delta in early May and has been described as the worst natural disaster in the country’s history.

“Thanks to the full cooperation between the Government, UNICEF and [non-governmental organizations], the relief effort for the first six months has been successful,” Mr. Shrestha said.

But he stressed that “we cannot stop now, as there are still pressing issues to address for the medium to long term needs.”

Next month, UNICEF plans to start work on seven model safe schools, which will be more cyclone and earthquake resistant and will be used for shelter by local communities in emergencies. The agency is also looking into reconstructing the country’s health infrastructures as well as ways of permanently fixing its water and sanitation facilities.

As of early October, nearly half of the $482 million appeal, launched by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in July to aid the relief and recovery effort for Myanmar’s cyclone victims, remained unfunded.

Nevertheless, some 18,500 children have benefited from a UNICEF project, which has established 104 child-friendly spaces in monasteries and other public places, offering psychosocial activities. Other relief and recovery projects have provided 135,000 people with access to drinking water through cleaned ponds and wells, supplied delivery kits to 70,000 midwives and repaired 134 health facilities.

Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who visited Myanmar last May to facilitate humanitarian assistance efforts following the cyclone, said today that he would go back but only when “the political atmosphere is right.”

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, he said Myanmar authorities should “accelerate their democratization process, including the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.”


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