Myanmar Tropical Cyclone Nargis Flash Appeal 2008

10 July 2008

Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar on 2 and 3 May 2008, causing widespread devastation in the Ayeyarwady and Yangon Divisions.  The scale of human loss and suffering was vast.  According to the latest official figures, nearly 140,000 persons are either dead or “missing” (more precisely 84,537 killed, 53,836 still unaccounted for); and nearly 20,000 have been injured.  Some 2.4 million people are thought to be severely affected (in the sense of loss of livelihoods, shelter, or similarly severe loss) – equivalent to more than a third of the population of 7.3 million in the affected Townships – with up to 800,000 people displaced from their homes.  Nargis was the worst natural disaster in the history of Myanmar, and possibly the most devastating cyclone to hit Asia since the cyclone that struck Bangladesh in 1991.  The impact on the Ayeyarwady Delta, a remote area, heavily populated and difficult to access, was particularly severe: in addition to the lives and livelihoods lost, the timing and extent of the natural disaster greatly affected the critical planting season in what is Myanmar’s breadbasket region, with significant quantities of seeds and harvested crops lost.

The humanitarian response was as multi-faceted as it was generous.  The people of Myanmar and the Myanmar Red Cross Society immediately responded to the plight of their countrymen.  A UN-NGO Flash Appeal for US[1]$187 million was issued for Myanmar on 9 May, six days after the cyclone, and is 96% funded vis-à-vis that original target before this revision.  Despite initial reluctance from the Government of the Union of Myanmar to countenance such a large aid operation, international agencies and their partners have assisted people with food, shelter, water, health, nutrition and education over the last ten weeks. The response to date has also been notable for the regional solidarity shown to Myanmar by member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other neighbours.  ASEAN was also a linchpin stakeholder which played a “bridging” role between Myanmar and the international community.  The Government also responded, not least through showing the vital flexibility necessary to bring in more assistance from the outside.    

As the aid effort expanded, a Tripartite Core Group, consisting of high-level representatives of the Government of the Union of Myanmar, ASEAN and the UN, was established on 25 May as a joint response framework designed to oversee the coordination of relief assistance.  One of its critical achievements has been the execution of a massive, two-component UN-ASEAN-Government Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PoNJA) mission which identified key humanitarian needs in the affected areas through the Village Tract Assessment (VTA), and recovery needs through the Damage and Loss Assessment (DaLA).  Although the final report is not set to be released until 21 July, the results of the VTA have been used to inform this Appeal.  

From this wide-ranging assessment and the observations made by the clusters and agencies over nearly ten weeks of operations, it is clear that humanitarian needs remain significant.  Moreover, they require a more comprehensive and prolonged response than the Flash Appeal’s six-month planning horizon.  For example, while the majority of the affected population in the northern part of the Delta have received some assistance, outstanding relief needs continue to plague its more remote southern areas.  High levels of vulnerability persist in those geographic areas that have not yet been reached by relief assistance due to various logistical or infrastructural constraints.  Immediate agricultural assistance is needed within the current planting season, to speed the end of food aid dependence.  Innumerable other needs have been identified that are likely to persist for, or whose response will unfold over, eight to ten more months.

Issues of access, logistics, infrastructure/transportation, weather, seasonal imperatives – especially as regards the current monsoon planting season – present a complex mix of humanitarian and early recovery needs, which compels the IASC Country Team to substantially revise the original Flash Appeal into a year-long response plan.  Building on various assessment outcomes, agencies and partners have developed humanitarian response plans through the cluster approach, outlining strategies and actions for addressing ongoing humanitarian needs of the cyclone-affected population into 2009, including taking advantage of opportunities for early recovery that reduce the affected population’s aid dependence and start to undo the socio-economic setbacks caused by the cyclone. 

This plan, drawn up in the context of the evolving operational experience gained to date and structured around the results of the PoNJA, maintains the same sectoral focus, with additional emphasis on elements of early recovery and cross-cutting issues.  Special attention will be paid to the most vulnerable sections of the affected population, including children, women, the elderly, and households headed thereby.  People displaced from their homes are particularly vulnerable as well: two months after the cyclone, 14% of the villages still have temporary settlements with displaced persons who will continue to rely on outside support.

Food aid requirements will be adjusted relative to estimated harvests and in line with data generated by the PoNJA.  Simultaneously with the agricultural/nutritional concerns, humanitarian assistance will also be directed towards the provision of water and sanitation; non-agricultural income generation; health/reproductive health; protection; education; and shelter activities.  Logistics (air) support will be scaled down as surface transport systems regain momentum.  Telecommunications support has been, and will remain, essential for effective and efficient field operations.  Effective response coordination will continue through the inter–agency cluster approach. 

This plan expands the flash appeal into 103 projects in 13 key sectors, submitted by 13 UN agencies and 23 non-governmental organisations to assist 2.4 million people most severely affected by Cyclone Nargis, with a planning horizon until April 2009.  The total amount requested to address the needs identified in this appeal amounts to $481.8 million, of which $178 million has already been committed in response to the original flash appeal, leaving an unmet requirement of $303.6 million.   

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10 July 2008

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