Myanmar: Pressing need for livelihoods support

News and Press Release
Originally published
(Yangon: 29 January 2009): Cyclone Nargis affected people need substantial livelihoods support, in order to fully restore their lives. The large demand for such assistance was focus in the international donor meeting organized by the UN in Myanmar 27 January, followed by a field trip yesterday. Around 60 participants attended the meeting, including Heads of Diplomatic missions, UN agencies and International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), and representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture.

"Cyclone Nargis did not only cause tremendous human suffering. It also took away the tools people need to make a living, and hence the opportunity to produce food and secure income to their families. It remains a critical need to provide adequate support, such as restocking of lost assets and re-establishing of livelihood opportunities, such as livestock, fishing nets and boats in order for people in the Delta to resume economic activity and be active participants in the longer term recovery process," said the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Bishow Parajuli.

Reaching nine months into the cyclone response, the sector of agriculture is funded by 28 per cent and is hence by far the least funded sector in the UN Revised Appeal. Only USD 16.3 million of USD 58.4 million required has been met, leaving a shortfall of USD 42.1 million. Overall, the UN Revised Appeal is currently funded by 65 per cent, or USD 309 million of USD 477 million required.

Nargis caused high livestock mortality. 50 per cent of the buffalos were lost, affecting meat production and employment. In Ayeryawady Division alone, 33% of fishing households lost their livelihoods. Replacement of lost key assets, such as farm tools and fishing boats, is ongoing and will take a few years to complete.

Presentations by the UN and Inter-Agency Standing Committee working groups identified a number of efforts that can be done to restore household livelihoods and make people better able to cope with future cyclones.

"We need to improve farming, fisheries, livestock and forestry, because these are the main pillars of the delta economy. However, nearly one third of the households buy most of their food, and while agriculture will provide some employment, in the short term, we also have to stimulate employment through community-based rehabilitation and construction activities including schools and housing. We also need to improve markets, access to credit, and the management of natural resources," said Save the Children Country Director, Andrew Kirkwood, speaking on behalf of the Food Security and Nutrition Thematic Group.

A recent Crop and Food Supply Assessment Report by FAO and WFP indicates that the rice production in the delta region, formerly known as the "food basket of Myanmar", is expected to be only 50 percent that of the previous year. Countrywide, food crop production is expected to be satisfactory for this year, with rice as a whole not seriously affected by the cyclone. Nevertheless, pockets of food insecurity remain, especially in the delta region, and high levels of malnutrition persist in northern and more remote states, according to the report.

Yesterday, around 20 participants from the meeting took part in a field visit to the dry Zone areas, arranged by the UN in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture.

"Donors' support for agricultural development in the Dry Zone will help the Myanmar people in achieving food security. This will further contribute towards regional food security," said Singapore's Ambassador to Myanmar, H.E. Robert Chua, who participated in the field visit.

The FAO&WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission Report can be downloaded from

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