UN officials witness progress and urge for continued support in Cyclone Giri hit areas

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Yangon, 20 December --- Local communities have demonstrated remarkable resilience in coping with the destructions caused by Cyclone Giri, which struck on 22 October. Nearly two months on, a substantial amount of emergency relief has been distributed, covering the most basic needs of the affected populations in terms of food, emergency health and temporary shelters.

These were some of the key observations made by a delegation of UN officials, led by the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, who travelled last week to several villages in Sittwe and Myebon Townships in Rakhine State to witness relief and recovery effort in the aftermath of the category 4 cyclone that claimed at least 45 lives and affected an estimated 260,000 people. The delegation today briefed international donors about the visit.

"Humanitarian emergency assistance is forthcoming, and people are slowly starting to rebuild their communities with what little they have left and the aid they are receiving. The resilience of the affected people has been remarkable," said Bishow Parajuli, the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Myanmar, after his return to Yangon.

The UN RC/HC was accompanied by the Representative for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Country Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Head of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Myanmar. The delegation met with the Government and staff from UN agencies and international and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) based in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, and Myebon, where the most severe damage has occurred. The three-day mission also brought the delegation to the villages of Min Chaung and Shin Taung in Myebon Township and Byine Thit in Pauktaw Township.

"The destruction in these villages has been massive. Up to 70-80 percent of all houses were completely destroyed and schools and health facilities are severely damaged. People now rely on various emergency supplies, which are distributed widely to the worst-hit areas by the Government, international and local NGOs and UN agencies. But people are in dire need of more permanent shelter structures and livelihood support," said Parajuli.

According to initial Government estimates, at least 20,000 houses were completely destroyed by the cyclone, leaving over 100,000 people homeless in the townships of Kyakpyu, Myebon, Minbya and Pauktaw. Approximately 56 per cent of all schools have either collapsed or been damaged, according to recent assessments carried out by the Ministry of Education with participation from UN agencies and NGOs. Approximately 17,500 acres of agricultural lands and nearly 50,000 acres of agricultural ponds were also destroyed.

The response from the authorities and the international humanitarian community has been immediate and relief and recovery efforts will continue in the coming months. After the November distributions, WFP and eight partners plan to distribute additional 6,487 MT of mixed food commodities to nearly 200,000 beneficiaries in the four affected townships in December and January.

In the livelihood sector, interventions include renovation of embankment, cash-for-work and restoration of fishermen's livelihoods. UNDP has recently completed cash-for-work projects in 50 villages in Myebon and 40 villages in Minbya that in addition to having generated immediate and much needed income to victims of Giri, have resulted in debris cleaning, repair of embankments and other community infrastructure. The Livelihoods Cluster continues to appeal to donors for funding that goes beyond the initial emergency phase through the recovery phase, marked by the next monsoon harvest at the end of 2011.

In education, UNICEF is supporting the provision of 100 temporary learning spaces in the four affected townships and has so far provided school kits to 7,000 children. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF is also implementing the Expanded Programme of Immunization Plus (EPI Plus) and provided training for health workers in Community Management of Acute Malnutrition. Other UN agencies with health interventions in the affected areas include WHO and UNFPA.

As of 10 December 2010, the emergency shelter kits distribution has reached 38 per cent of the 52,000 affected households. The additional relief items for some 22,000 households are planned to be distributed in the coming months.

The main gaps in terms of funding continue to be in early recovery shelter and livelihood support. To date, USD 20.5 million has been allocated from donors for the Cyclone Giri response, including USD 6 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). The overall funding needs for all sectors for both emergency and early recovery phases are estimated to be USD 57 million and the humanitarain community in Myanmar welcomes continued international funding support.

For more information, please contact:

The United Nations in Myanmar

Esben Q. Harboe
Special Assistant to the UN RC/HC
Tel: +95 9 5074853,

Thet Khaing
Coordination Analyst, UN RC Office
Tel: +95 1 542910-19, ext. 429,