Myanmar: Cyclone Nargis - Major milestones reached, but more humanitarian work still to be done

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Six months ago on 2 May 2008 the destructive power of Cyclone Nargis made landfall on Myanmar. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today announced that while the Red Cross has reached major milestones, important and difficult work remains ahead if people and communities are to reach the living standards they knew before the Cyclone Nargis tragedy.

"The needs have been enormous and the services provided through the volunteers of the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) have been absolutely essential," said Bridget Gardner, Head of Delegation for the IFRC in Myanmar. "Tens of thousands of volunteers have been in the forefront of our efforts, and they have been inspiring. It is this capacity of the Red Cross in Myanmar to mobilise volunteers at the community level which enabled access to affected communities and a swift response in the first place, but our work together is far from over."

An estimated 260,000 families in the Ayeyarwady Delta region have received lifesaving support through the MRCS and the IFRC. This far exceeds the number of beneficiaries that were anticipated to be served during the emergency phase of the Red Cross operations in the country.

The International Federation's cyclone recovery programmes in Myanmar are projected to continue through April of 2011, three years after Nargis made landfall. Through 30 September 2008, contributions and pledges received by the IFRC total 57.8 million Swiss Francs (USD 50.8 million or EUR 37.8 million). Expenditures during the same period total 28 million Swiss Francs (USD 24.6 million or EUR 18.3 million), with the balance of available funds targeted at a range of vital ongoing recovery, capacity building and disaster preparedness programmes.

As efforts shift from relief to recovery, Gardner highlighted MRCS and IFRC plans for psychosocial support to ensure the emotional recovery of those affected and programmes to create income for families whose livelihoods have been destroyed. "We are working closely with the MRCS and other humanitarian organizations in the delivery of livelihoods programmes that will impact 80,000 households, water and sanitation programmes to ensure the well-being of communities, health education programmes, and trainings that boost disaster preparedness at the community level," she said.

"We could not have achieved anything without our volunteers; they have been outstanding," said Prof. Dr. Tha Hla Shwe, the President of the MRCS, adding: "When you ask them about their own experiences and losses, even some of them break down. Clearly more work needs to be done."

For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

Lasse Norgaard, regional communications delegate (Bangkok), Mobile: + 66 847 52 6441

Jason Smith, communications manager (Kuala Lumpur), Mobile: + 60 123 87 0829

Anthony Mwangi, communications officer (Geneva), Mobile: + 41 79 245 7525

Media unit duty phone (Geneva), Mobile: + 41 79 416 3881