Funding shortages are forcing NGOs to cut operations in the Ayeyarwady Delta, as the Myanmar government takes on oversight for recovery efforts two years after Cyclone Nargis on 1 August.
"The need is enormous," said Prem Shukla, programme director in Myanmar for Plan International. "Nargis is forgotten though."
Plan, which started work in Myanmar only after Nargis, will wrap up its work in June 2011, while Save the Children and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are cutting their operations.
Problems of food security, lack of shelter and livelihoods still plague people in the Nargis-affected region, according to the Tripartite Core Group (TCG) report released on 27 July.
The report found that 27 percent of families were food-insecure and livelihoods were still not back to pre-cyclone levels. More than half of those surveyed said housing was their most important concern. The total funding gap for all sectors in the post-Nargis recovery effort is US$510 million, according to the Recovery Coordination Centre, responsible for tracking Nargis aid.
The TCG - comprising the government, Southeast Asian nations and the UN - was formed to build trust between Myanmar and the international aid community weeks after Cyclone Nargis killed 140,000 and destroyed 752,299 homes in May 2008.
It completes its mandate on 31 July, leaving the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement to oversee recovery efforts. After two years of relief work, NGOs expect the transition to go smoothly, but worry that projects may stall without donor support.
"We need additional funding to continue the important recovery work that is still not finished," said Andrew Kirkwood from Save the Children, which has one of the largest presences in the region. "We have reduced the number of offices in the delta from 14 to eight and the number of our staff in the Delta has reduced from 1,200 to 600 over the last six months."
IOM closed three of its delta shelter programmes in July and called the situation a "tragedy".
Photo: PLAN International
|PLAN's schools can also serve as shelters in the case of natural disasters|
"Despite the lack of basic shelter for up to one million inhabitants in the delta, urgent and desperate calls for additional funding have gone for the most part unheeded, resulting in the downscaling of many shelter programmes in the delta," said Nelson Bosch, IOM recovery coordinator in Myanmar.
Bracing for the worst
Potential natural disasters worry groups such as World Vision, which is now shifting to long-term projects. The organization reports a return to normality in areas of the Nargis-affected region where it is working - the towns of Bogale, Pyapon, Hainggyi, Dedaye and Kyaiklatt - but nonetheless, another weather-related crisis could be disastrous.
"This year's long dry season was accompanied by very high temperatures, which means the humanitarian community may need to be prepared for a possible water and food security crisis in the coming year," said Win Zin Oo, humanitarian emergency affairs director at World Vision Myanmar.
But despite the shortages, the biggest resource is the people involved. "The water is there, the fish are in the water and the coconut trees are there," said Shukla, who has overseen Plan's construction of 43 schools and 31 early childhood development centres in the delta. "But the seeds were gone. First we needed to bridge the gap, and now we need to turn it over to the community."