Victims of Shan Quake Still Waiting for More Aid

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By Sai Zom Hseng

Many victims of the earthquake that hit eastern Shan State nearly six weeks ago are still in need of shelter and basic supplies, according to local sources in the affected areas and NGOs involved in the relief effort.

“Many people who lost their houses are still living in tents because they have nowhere else to stay,” said Pi Sam, a resident of Tarlay Township, near the epicenter of the 6.8-magnitude quake.

He added that local authorities had asked people in the area to make lists of their losses so that the government could provide compensation. The authorities also promised repeatedly to provide new houses for survivors of the March 24 earthquake.

Although temporary shelters have been distributed by the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) and some other donors, local people say that they are too small to accommodate entire families.

Aye Aye Thant, the deputy head of the Disaster Management Division of the MRCS, said that the group has distributed tents, kitchen sets, mosquito nets and some other non-food items, in accordance with the orders of the government.

“Although we can’t provide tents for every victim, we have given them to people who lost all or almost all of their property,” Aye Aye Thant told The Irrawaddy. “We will have a meeting on the fifth of this month to decide what else we should provide.”

Some survivors said they weren't sure what form of aid they were entitled to or how much they could expect to get.

“The local authorities said we would be compensated for our losses, but I lost my two children. Should I ask for compensation?” asked Daw Nar A, a Lahu woman from Kya Ku Ni, the worst-affected village in the area.

She said she had heard that the authorities promised to provide more money for those most affected by the disaster, noting that some people whose homes were completely destroyed have already received 400,000 kyat (US $475) in aid.”

According to the latest report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), at least 18,000 people and over 90 villages were affected by the earthquake, which left 74 people dead and 125 injured. The report also noted that many needs remain to be met, particularly in the health, shelter, water and sanitation sectors. The MRCS and some other NGOs, such as World Vision and UNICEF, are involved in efforts to meet those needs.

Dr. Phone Win, the managing director of Mingalar Myanmar, a local non-profit organization, acknowledged that the recovery has been slow, and said that his group's focus has been on restoring the water supply in Tarlay Township. “The NGOs in the affected area have already provided about 350 temporary shelters in Tarlay, where around 1,200 houses are needed,” he said.

An employee of Malteser International, a German NGO, said that the pace of the relief effort would be much faster if the government allowed all NGOs, both local and international, into the affected area.

“We went to the affected area the day after the earthquake, but police and soldiers turned us back. It's ridiculous. We went there to help people and to distribute food,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

According to the UNOCHA report, which was released in mid-April, more than $3 million has been donated for the earthquake-affected area by different countries and organizations.