Myanmar

World Humanitarian Day marked in Myanmar

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Yangon, 19 August 2011 --- World Humanitarian Day is a celebration of people helping people. Every day humanitarian aid workers help millions of people around the world no matter who they are or where they are. The day recognizes the sacrifices and contributions of those who risk their lives to give others help and hope.

In Yangon, the day was marked with an event attended by some 200 representatives from national and international non-governmental organizations, UN agencies, diplomats and the Government of Myanmar. The event included reading of messages from the UN Secretary-General and the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, speeches by the representatives from the Government and humanitarian aid workers as well as display of photos and information material from agencies and organizations involved in humanitarian work in Myanmar.

“There is never a year without humanitarian crises. And wherever there are people in need, there are people who help them – men and women coming together to ease suffering and bring hope,” said Mr. Bhairaja Panday, the UN Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator a.i. for Myanmar, quoting the UN Secretary-General’s message.

“In the year that has passed since the last World Humanitarian Day, Myanmar has once again had its share of natural disasters, with Cyclone Giri and the earthquake in Shan State. Once again the humanitarian community in Myanmar proved its ability to effectively respond and deliver humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable people in their time of need,” said Mr. Panday.

In his speech U Soe Kyi, Director General, Department of Social Welfare, underscored the importance of partnerships in preparing for and responding to disasters.

“I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the improved cooperation between the UN and its partners and the Government, which has resulted in better access to vulnerable populations and a better coordinated assistance. It is important that this cooperation continues and is further strengthened,” said U Soe Kyi.

Cyclone Giri, which struck Myanmar’s Rakhine State on 22 October 2010, destroyed an estimated 20,000 houses, leaving over 100,000 people homeless. In the days, weeks and months following the cyclone a substantial amount of emergency relief was distributed by local authorities, non-governmental organizations, UN agencies and other humanitarian partners. A pivotal role in the early warning and response was played by Myanmar Red Cross Society and its many volunteers on the ground.

“The volunteers who are also community members are living in communities in all townships in the country; they are the first ones to give early warnings and provide early humanitarian assistance. They also performed as bridges between local authorities and humanitarian actors for coordination and cooperation, said Professor Dr. Tha Hla Shwe, President for Myanmar Red Cross Society, who encouraged humanitarian partners to make use of the society’s network of more than 200,000 volunteers.

“We, humanitarian organizations, need to help each other to help people who are in need,” said Professor Dr. Tha Hla Shwe.

On 24 March 2011 an earthquake of magnitude 6.8 on the Richter Scale and 10 km depth struck the southern parts of Shan State in the East of Myanmar, affecting an estimated 18,000 people in 90 villages. World Vision, who was already present in the affected areas and helped coordinate relief efforts, shared their perspectives on coordination of relief efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake.

“What could have been extremely chaotic turned out to be very collegial and effective. Good coordination occurred not only at the field level, but also at the central level. As disasters become more complex it is obvious that we can’t respond alone. We have to respond as partners,” said U Win Zin Oo, Humanitarian Emergency Affairs Director for World Vision in Myanmar.

The well-attended event in Yangon was part of a world-wide campaign in celebration of people helping people – the theme for this year’s World Humanitarian Day.

For more information on WHD, please visit: www.worldhumanitarianday.info

For media inquiries, please contact:

Esben Q. Harboe Special Assistant to the UN RC/HC in Myanmar
Tel: +95 9 5074853, esben.harboe@undp.org

Aye Win National Information Officer, UNIC Yangon
Tel: +95 9 5123952, aye.win@undp.org