Two weeks after Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar on May 2, 2008, over 100,000 people are estimated to have perished and more than 1.5 million people are homeless. These numbers will rise in the coming weeks because of monsoon rains, contaminated water, disease, lack of food and the immense difficulty of reaching those in need.
CHF International is working closely with its partners to help organize emergency operations to get assistance to those who need it. CHF is currently supporting the Emergency Shelter Cluster, a coordination body led by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) that has been activated to help non-governmental organizations (NGO), United Nations agencies and other humanitarian organizations, work together to provide the best and most comprehensive response possible. CHF International is fully committed to working with its partners to find ways to help the people of Myanmar and has therefore seconded the Director of its Office of Humanitarian Assistance, Richard Choularton, to the Emergency Shelter Cluster where he is serving as a Special Advisor.
Like many other NGOs, CHF’s response has been delayed as we try to get emergency response experts into the country. CHF staff will be on the ground in the coming days working to assess the needs and get shelter to those who need it most. But even with people on the ground, Myanmar currently suffers a shortage of the plastic sheeting that is needed get families out of the monsoonal downpours and under cover. To support the people of Myanmar, we need your help. Your contribution will help us to purchase shelter materials and reach thousands of people whose lives have been devastated by Cyclone Nargis.
Fortunately, the second tropical storm that was forming near Myanmar has not gained strength, but it’s still raining!
As more information comes, the extent of the damage is becoming clearer. About 12,000 schools have been destroyed and an additional 2,300 schools have lost their roofs. Approximately 50 percent of health centers were damaged, as were 20 percent of hospitals. In the Ayayawaddy Delta, 80 percent of livestock (oxen and buffalos) were killed.
Some progress is being made, especially in terms of establishing the logistics infrastructure provided by as a Logistics Cluster common service. As long as access is granted, within a week much more capacity will be available to humanitarian organizations so that relief supplies can be moved into the affected areas.
Without access to clean water and even basic shelter, the next few weeks will be devastating. It is estimated that up to 2.5 million people are displaced--that would be the largest displacement in the world today.
The CHF team in the region is continuing to work with its partners to develop assessment tools and plans to distribute shelter kits and water/sanitation interventions to help those we can reach as soon as possible.
Heavy rains are falling at the moment in Burma. Within the last couple of days the average total rainfall for the month of May has been surpassed in the affected areas. The rains have been so hard that people are left bruised by the rain storms.
Forced and spontaneous relocations continue to be reported – however it does seem that some people welcome the evacuation to dryer areas where relief services can be provided more easily. However, camp conditions are very poor. Camps are overcrowded, lack clean water and have no sanitation facilities. The movements of large numbers of people are also making assessments obsolete within a few days, further complicating response efforts.
According to FAO, there is still a small window to get the rice crop in the ground. The affected areas produce 60 to 75 percent of the country’s rice. If people are unable to plant they will not see another harvest until late 2009.
Water access is emerging as one of the most critical issues. Ponds are filled with bodies and unusable, while wells have become too saline for human consumption. Rainwater harvesting could help, but has not always been successful in the past – and relies on plastic sheeting and storage containers. Unfortunately there is a serious lack of plastic sheeting and buckets in the country.
CHF is continuing to provide support through the international shelter cluster, as well as in the areas of water/sanitation, and health, coordinating activities and leveraging experience from other disaster areas for effective and appropriate shelter solutions. The needs on the ground in Myanmar, it is clear, will continue long after global attention to this crisis has faded. We are grateful for the commitment being shown by those who continue to support efforts such as these.
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