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Cyclone losses top US$4 billion

A young girl at the '3 mile' displaced persons camp outside Labutta, southern Myanmar. Cyclone Nargis left more than 138,000 dead or missing when its slammed into Myanmar's Ayeyarwady Delta in May 2008.

Cyclone Nargis, which battered Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Delta on 2 and 3 May, left an estimated US$4 billion worth of damage, on a par with the devastation caused by the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, according to a new assessment.

The figure includes $1.7 billion in damage to physical assets, including homes, schools and health centres, as well as Buddhist temples and other religious buildings, which are important sources of community and social support.

Survivors also lost a combined $2.3 billion in income through the storm and accompanying tidal surge, which struck factories, swept away rice harvests, livestock and other valuable tools of production, according to the report, released on 21 July.

The Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA) estimated that about $1 billion would be needed over three years to help affected communities and households meet their needs for food, livelihoods, housing, education, and other support services.

The report, compiled by the United Nations, the Myanmar government and the Association of South East Asian Nations, is based on detailed surveys of more than 390 affected villages in June.

It offers the most comprehensive data on conditions in the delta after the category four storm left 84,537 people dead and another 53,836 missing and presumed dead, and severely affected 2.4 million survivors.

An estimated 450,000 houses were destroyed and another 350,000 damaged; more than 4,000 schools decimated, and about 75 percent of local health facilities wrecked.

The storm also destroyed livelihoods in the primarily agricultural and seaside area, killing livestock and sweeping away tools, seeds and fishing equipment.

The report is expected to serve as a blueprint for fund-raising for the long-term recovery effort, providing a mutual reference point for donor governments and the Myanmar authorities.

At the report’s release in Singapore, John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, appealed for international donors to “be generous” to help the survivors rebuild their lives.

Fund-raising slow

Almost three months after the cyclone struck, many aid workers have expressed concern over the slow pace of fund-raising amid concerns about foreign aid workers’ ability to work in the affected area.

“There is not enough money coming in,” one UN official, who asked not to be identified, told IRIN. “That will have life-threatening consequences.”

On 10 July, the UN re-launched a flash appeal on behalf of 13 UN organisations and 23 NGOs for emergency relief and early recovery efforts through to April 2009 for a total of $481 million, up from a previous appeal of $201 million.

Yet so far the appeal has raised only $190 million, or 39.6 percent of what is now being sought, according to the UN’s Financial Tracking System.

A total $328 million in aid for the disaster relief effort has been received, including bilateral donations made directly to the Myanmar government, mainly by Asian countries.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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