Cyclone survivors in Myanmar will likely need up to four years to fully recover from the impact of Nargis, according to the UN.
“Full recovery will take three to four years, depending on the availability of funds,” Bishow Parajuli, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, told IRIN in Yangon, the former Burmese capital.
His assessment runs from May 2008 when the cyclone struck to 2011, the recovery period now being envisioned by the upcoming Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan, a strategic framework for the international community’s recovery assistance.
More than eight months after Nargis left close to 140,000 people dead or missing when it hit the Ayeyarwady delta on 2 and 3 May, life remains a struggle for thousands of the 2.4 million people affected, many of whom lost their homes, property and livelihoods.
Despite a massive outpouring of humanitarian assistance, recovery will not be quick. Indonesia took four to five years to recover from the Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed some 167,000 people in the western province of Aceh in 2004, Parajuli explained.
Across the affected area - nearly twice the size of Lebanon - relief and recovery in the coming months will likely run in parallel.
Since the start of its operations in May, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has provided food to more than one million people and will continue to do so through April, covering the needs of at least 450,000 people.
An assessment in February will determine whether that support will have to be continued.
“Moving people from a reliance on food aid to more sustainable food security - this is where the integration of our activities with those working in early recovery and agriculture is paramount,” Chris Kaye, WFP country director, told IRIN.
The UN food agency is already engaging some 25,000 people in food-for-work schemes in the affected area.
According to the first of three Post-Nargis Periodic Reviews released in December by the Tripartite Core Group (TCG), despite progress in addressing relief and recovery needs on the ground, more is needed, particularly in areas of food security and nutrition.
“We need to increase the support particularly in the western delta and some of the larger towns,” Parajuli said, citing the importance of education, shelter and livelihood support.
Despite significant progress, humanitarian needs remain
A US$477 million flash appeal re-launched by the UN in July on behalf of 13 UN organisations and 23 NGOs for emergency relief and early recovery efforts through to April 2009 is 64 percent funded.
“We still have a few more months under the current appeal period. Hopefully we will get more support to continue this, as well as other early recovery efforts,” Parajuli said, stressing the importance of upcoming medium- and long-term recovery efforts as well.
“Funding will prove a key challenge in this effort, as will continued cooperation,” he said, citing the importance of the TCG - comprising the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the government of Myanmar and UN - in facilitating access and delivery of aid.
“That type of cooperation is really fundamental,” he said.
The three-year plan will focus on restoring productive, healthy and secure lives at a cost of more than $230 million per year and cover health, livelihood, education, shelter, disaster-preparedness response, water and sanitation as well as the environment.
According to Parajuli, the UN and NGOs could do much more to help the people of Myanmar, given greater support from the international community.
“There are a lot of development and humanitarian challenges in the country,” he said. “We could do more if the resources were available,” the UN official said.
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