Myanmar

Regime in Burma still restricting access after cyclone Nargis

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Six months after Cyclone Nargis caused massive devastation in Burma Christian Aid says the country will require assistance for the foreseeable future. There is still a need for more permanent housing and disaster preparedness training; access to clean drinking water in the upcoming dry season is also a major concern.

'Cyclone Nargis made it easier for humanitarian agencies such as Christian Aid which has a longstanding partnership with local organisations to work in Burma. We have been able to deliver assistance in an effective and accountable way,' says Ray Hasan, Christian Aid's head of programme policy for the region.

'But despite concessions made in the Irrawaddy Delta after the cyclone, the junta's restrictions on humanitarian access continue to obstruct aid workers in Burma,' continues Mr Hasan.

Christian Aid partners say that the majority of the people affected are still unable to start the process of rebuilding their lives. Resources remain limited and restrictions on freedom of movement are still in place.

To date Christian Aid has spent more than one million pounds in Burmaon emergency aid and improved conditions for a quarter of a million people.

Immediately following the cyclone partner organisations provided water containers and purifiers, food rations, emergency shelter, household items and clothing, and basic medicines.

Work is now proceeding with recovery work. A Christian Aid partner is providing 12 villages with goats and pigs and support to the fishing industry.

Boats and nets are being distributed and 50 permanent shelters are being constructed.

'The progress is surprising, everyone seems to be employed in constructing houses,' says an engineers working with one partner organisation. 'We don't need to motivate the people here. They like to work together and they are looking after each other.'

Christian Aid has made disaster reduction training a priority; learning how to respond to disasters is essential to avoid the massive damages suffered by Burmafrom the cyclone in May.

'In June we sent two engineers to visit our partner organisation in Orissa, Indiato learn about disaster response training,' says Mr Hasan. 'Our work in Orissa in training communities and building cyclone -resistant shelters has saved thousands of lives there.'

An engineer who travelled to Indiasaid: 'We have brought back blueprints of designs which we have adapted for our local situation.

'We need to modify these designs further. The priority right now is to meet the urgent needs for rebuilding peoples' lives, both in terms of providing shelter but more importantly the spirit of community in the face of disaster.'

Christian Aid says pressure must be maintained on the regime to ensure unrestricted access to the affected areas and that the needs of the most vulnerable communities affected by Nargis are prioritised.

'But it is also imperative that the donor community recognises the role of civil society in Burmaand ensures local organisations are adequately funded. Thus far they have been most effective in responding to the crisis and they are crucial to the future development of Burma,' says Mr Hasan.