(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Targeting assistance to where it is needed most

Survivors of Cyclone Nargis reach out to receive food aid in the outskirts of Myanmar's largest city Yangon on May 12, 2008. The United Nations said on May 12 it was still awaiting two-dozen visas for its foreign staff to enter Myanmar, and that the regim
AFP Photo/IRIN

With more than US$260 million committed or pledged to relief efforts in Myanmar, UN agencies and the humanitarian community are taking steps to ensure their assistance is well targeted.

In all countries where there is internal conflict and political tensions between ethnic or religious groups, getting assistance to where it is most needed is a challenge, according to UN officials. In Myanmar this is especially so, given sparse public services and infrastructure.

The problem is exacerbated in the cyclone-devastated country because of weak local humanitarian capacity and the need to inject large amounts of external resources quickly into unfamiliar areas.

The most effective way for the UN, NGOs and donors to monitor the delivery of relief supplies is to gain unhindered access to affected areas, particularly the delta, according to US Charge D'Affaires at the US Embassy in Yangon, the former Burmese capital, Shari Villarosa.

"The UN and NGOs already working in the area have tried to put into place monitoring measures for the assistance they have received," Villarosa said, noting, however, that they did not have any information on assistance given to the government and where and to whom it had been distributed.

"We urge the government to share this information with other donors to gather a more complete picture," she said.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) said it, like other international donors, provided direct funding to partner NGOs, which are well established in Myanmar and have memos of understanding with the authorities.

Similarly, the UK Department for International Development's Sarah Saxton said: "Our aid is going only to the UN, Red Cross and NGOs, not directly to the government. We are funding these organisations as they have a good track record of delivery in Burma. We have in place the usual monitoring mechanisms," including financial reports and written reports explaining what activities have been undertaken and what impact they have had.

"This means we can make sure the aid we spend is being used in the best possible way. We have confidence in the monitoring mechanisms of these partners to ensure that aid reaches those who need it," she said.

As of 4 June, a total of $153,636,162 had been committed to relief operations in Myanmar, with a further $107,996,656 pledged. Of these total contributions, $82.4 million has been committed to projects and activities outlined in the UN Flash Appeal. An additional $50.9 million has been pledged. The UN Flash Appeal for Myanmar currently requests $201 million and is covered at 40.8 percent. More than 20 UN agencies and NGOs have requested funding through the appeal.

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