Myanmar: 2nd press release of the Tripartite Core Group - "Further inroad to relief and early recovery for victims of Cyclone Nargis"

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The Tripartite Core Group (TCG) of ASEAN, Government of the Union of Myanmar, and the United Nations has been meeting regularly to monitor, coordinate and facilitate the flow of international relief aid into the cyclone-hit areas.

On 25 June 2008 in Yangon, the TCG presented to the 3rd Meeting of the ASEAN Humanitarian Task Force the first stage of the Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA). 'The PONJA was conducted jointly by TCG components and partners to assess comprehensively all sectors through unimpeded access to more than 300 villages throughout the Delta. Rigorous protocols and methodologies were implemented to ascertain that the assessment stands up to both scientific and international standards', explained Dr. Puji Pujiono in his report to the Task Force. More than 300 people from international aid agencies, government officials, Red Cross Movement, INGO and NGO members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, and volunteers took part in the exercise.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Chairman of the Task Force and Secretary-General of ASEAN stated that the exercise will be the basis for further cooperation and collaboration. 'We want to ensure that the conditions and reservations expressed by the representatives of 51 countries, the international institutions, international NGOs who attended the ASEAN-UN International Pledging Conference on 25 May 2008 in Yangon - issues related to transparency, accessibility and the issue of reaching the affected people - are addressed through this community-based assessment', Dr. Surin said.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Daniel Baker said,'The preliminary findings provide us with the impetus to intensify our ongoing relief and early recovery efforts. The findings will provide critical inputs to the Appeal Revision scheduled to be released both in the UN in New York and Geneva on 10 July'. The full report is to be released by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in Singapore on 20 - 21 July 2008.

In the past week, the TCG learnt that swift action taken by the Ministry of Health of Myanmar with the support of the United Nations, ASEAN, the Red Cross, and international/national NGOs has prevented mass outbreak of disease that was feared after the cyclone. Ten medical teams from ASEAN and other countries participated in a Medical Missions Feedback Workshop, held in Yangon on 23 June 2008, to provide feedback to the Myanmar Minister of Health, ASEAN and the WHO/Health Cluster.

Subsequently, in the ASEAN Roundtable, also held in Yangon on 24 June 2008, the TCG members noted experiences of ASEAN and neighbouring countries in post-disaster response and recovery as presented by experts. Heru Prasetyo of Tsunami Rehabilitation and Reconstruction for Aceh and Nias, Indonesia, was optimistic. 'Judging the progress at the eights week so far, the TCG efforts in managing response and preparing the recovery has placed Myanmar Nargis in much more advanced stage compared to Aceh Tsunami then. No doubt, the journey to recovery will be uphill and arduous', he said. Other experts from Thailand, Bangladesh and Pakistan also shared their experiences and lessons learnt. Views and ways forward for the relief and early recovery efforts and future programme were also discussed.

ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan and UN Under Secretary-General/ UNESCAP Executive Secretary Noelleen Heyzer, accompanied by the TCG Chairman and members from ASEAN and the UN, visited the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) Delta on 26 June 2008 to witness the relief and early recovery efforts. For the first time, media community from ASEAN countries were invited to see for themselves the continuing relief work from the Government, private individuals, and the international community. Deputy Foreign Minister and TCG Chairman U Kyaw Thu explained to the media,' The Government is currently focusing on quickly providing low-cost housing and temporary school buildings for the cyclone-affected communities. Business community, religious institutions and private donors have been extending generous support to this effort'.

From 9 to 30 June 2008, the TCG has authorised entry visas and extension of stay permits to 294 officials and individuals coming to Myanmar for extending assistance to Cyclone Nargis. With the support of the TCG, the humanitarian community has been able to expand assistance to the victims of the cyclone. With the additional capacity that has been deployed to the Delta facilitated by the TCG, as well as the support provided for the transit of relief items into Myanmar and down into the Delta, assistance efforts have reached over 1.3 million people.

The TCG welcomed Singapore's donation of Ground Handling Equipment on 26 June 2008. 'The equipment will enable the ground handling of larger planes and speed up the unloading and delivery of international relief supplies from the donor community at Yangon International Airport', said Singapore's Ambassador to Myanmar, Mr. Robert H K Chua.

Issued in Yangon, Myanmar
2 July 2008

* Note: The TCG is an ASEAN-led mechanism to facilitate trust, confidence and cooperation between Myanmar and the international community in the urgent post-Cyclone Nargis humanitarian relief and recovery work. The TCG started its work on 31 May 2008 and has been meeting at least once a week in a spirit of mutual understanding, trust and cooperation. It has been working closely with the National Disaster Preparedness Central Committee chaired by His Excellency Prime Minister General Thein Sein, Union of Myanmar.

The TCG comprises three members from the Myanmar Government: (Deputy Foreign Minister U Kyaw Thu who is the Chairman, Acting Director-General, Ministry of Social Welfare and Resettlement U Aung Tun Khaing, and Deputy Director-General, Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation U Than Aye); three members from ASEAN (Singapore's Ambassador to Myanmar Mr Robert H K Chua, Dr Puji Pujiono, a senior UNDP officer seconded to the ASEAN Secretariat, and Ms Adelina Kamal, Assistant Director of the ASEAN Secretariat); and three from the UN (UN Humanitarian Coordinator Mr Daniel Baker, UN Resident Coordinator Mr Bishow Parajuli and a rotating UN agency Representative).