Rulers silent on Nargis anniversary

Myanmar's leaders fail to hold any events to remember the victims of last year's cyclone.

    More than 100,000 people are said to still
    be without permanent shelter [AFP]

    The UN, the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) and Myanmar are now calling for another $690m over the next three years to help survivors.

    "Continued support and engagement by the international community must be ensured for years to come," Bishow Parajuli, the UN resident co-ordinator, said.

    'Desperate need'

    Sean Turnell, an economist and Myanmar specialist from Macquarie University in Sydney, told Al Jazeera: "There is a desperate need for assistance down in the delta and various other regions affected by the cyclone, and the missing element in all of this is the role of the Myanmar government.

    In depth

     Video: Myanmar cyclone survivors struggle on

     Revisiting the Irrawaddy delta

    "Essentially, its contribution to disaster relief has been about one-quarter of that of the international community and it is interesting that they are being a lot more open to aid workers but that hasn't often been the case," he said.

    Turnell said that the international community needs to continue providing aid to Myanmar while putting pressure on the military to do more for its people.

    The military government was criticised in the weeks after the cyclone for not allowing international aid agencies access to victims.

    The ruling generals did eventually permit agencies into the country, which led to up to 90 per cent of survivors receiving food, clean drinking water and basic shelter.

    David Evans, from the UN agency for human settlements in Myanmar, told Al Jazeera that aid agencies had not been able to provide as much help as they would have liked.

    "It is not a great result in terms of other disasters that we could compare with if we looked at the Pakistan earthquake, or Sri Lanka or Indonesia with the tsunami," he said.

    "One year on, we would expect to be much further down the road. And that's largely to do with the amount of donor funding that is available for permanent shelter."

    Thousands homeless

    Oxfam, the international non-governmental humanitarian organisation, said earlier this week that hundreds of millions of dollars are still needed to help people recover.

    Cyclone Nargis

    Cyclone struck Myanmar's Irrawaddy Delta region on the night of May 2, 2008, packing winds in excess of 200kmh

     At least 138,000 are thought to have drowned or died in immediate aftermath, although exact number unlikely ever to be known

     Storm destroyed 450,000 homes and badly damaged more than 300,000 others

     Sea water contaminated drinking water wells and laid waste to some of Myanmar's most important rice paddies

     About half a million survivors still living in temporary shelters, while 240,000 remain reliant on deliveries of drinking water

    At least $315m has been provided by foreign governments and charities for food aid and emergency assistance for the 800,000 people left homeless and destitute.

    But Oxfam said that several years of aid would be needed to help the total estimated 2.4 million people affected.

    Paul Risley, a World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman in Bangkok, the Thai capital, said: "We can provide a farmer and his family with food in a weekly ration, but that same farmer will need cash to purchase seeds, to restore fields and replace the ploughs and livestock they lost."

    Risley said the WFP would provide food rations until the end of this year for 350,000 people.

    Meanwhile the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies said more than 100,000 people are still living in tents and in need of permanent shelter.

    Bernd Schell, the head of the IFRC's country office in Yangon, said: "Tens of thousands more live in temporary, substandard shelters, which will not be able to withstand another storm."

    Many people affected by Cyclone Nargis were hit by tidal surges as high as three and a half metres which reached 40km inland for the two days of the disaster.

    The government has always maintained lower tolls - 85,000 people killed and 54,000 missing - and has not revised its figures during the aftermath of the cyclone.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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