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Concern over future Nargis cooperation

A young child eats from a bowl in Myanmar's badly affected Ayeyarwady Delta
(Greg Constantine/WFP)

Aid workers have expressed concern that recovery work in cyclone-affected Myanmar may be hampered by the disbandment of a coordinating group set up to oversee aid efforts.

The Tripartite Core Group (TCG) - which includes the Myanmar government, UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - was established after Cyclone Nargis to facilitate access to the country's Ayeyarwady Delta, assess the needs, and develop a recovery plan.

After its mandate expires on 31 July, the Ministry of Social Welfare will take on those responsibilities, and agencies worry that international aid access will be restricted and recovery efforts affected.

"Ministries in Myanmar are typically steeped in bureaucracy, and often delay decisions at a lower level for fear of being held responsible for a mistake," Kyaw Myint, a local consultant for several NGOs working in the delta, told IRIN.

Burmese NGOs with local staff have had "excellent access", but the main concern is for international NGOs looking to work in severely affected areas, he said.

"It's frustrating because the local NGOs have the access, but the international NGOs have all the funding."

Permit worries

One international aid worker in the delta, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed concern over travel permits. "All travel permission requests have to be re-launched and we can surely expect problems or delays there," the aid worker said.

However, other international organizations were pleased that the Ministry of Social Welfare - which works closely with international NGOs - was taking the reins.

"We work very well with the Ministry of Social Welfare," Grace Ommer, country director for Oxfam, said. With respect to visas, she said, "we haven't had a lot of problems with that".

After the category four storm struck, Myanmar's government initially denied visas to international aid workers.

More than one year after Cyclone Nargis struck, scores of people remain dependent on international food assistance

Greg Constantine/WFP
More than one year after Cyclone Nargis struck, scores of people remain dependent on international food assistance
Monday, June 8, 2009
La sécurité alimentaire s’améliore, mais toujours des problèmes dans le sud
More than one year after Cyclone Nargis struck, scores of people remain dependent on international food assistance

Photo: Greg Constantine/WFP
Initial international access to the delta was restricted

The TCG - with ASEAN at the core - is credited with turning around that situation, establishing trust between the various parties working to help those in need.

"ASEAN was called upon as a broker," said Joern Kristensen, head of the TCG's Recovery Coordination Centre (RCC). "Now it is the position of the government that the TCG is no longer needed."

The continuing recovery coordination - including granting access and approving visas - will fall to Myanmar's Ministry of Social Welfare, which has created a special task force, headed by Deputy Minister U Aung Tun Khine.

According to the European Union delegation in Thailand, although the TCG is transferring responsibilities to the ministry, ASEAN will still be part of the coordination.

"The stakeholders are currently discussing the setting-up of a coordination mechanism that will guarantee the continuation of activities without disruptions and we are confident that the handover will be smooth and that ASEAN will play an important role in facilitating it and providing support and technical assistance to the Ministry also beyond July 2010," it said.

Major role

The TCG has played an invaluable role by facilitating relief and recovery efforts, said Bishow Parajuli, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yangon.

"The continued cooperation and understanding of the Government of Myanmar in facilitating the support needed is important and key to attracting donor support."

The estimated total cost of the Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan through 2011 is approximately US$691 million, but of that amount, only $180 million has been received, according to Parajuli.

Cyclone Nargis, which struck the Ayeyarwady Delta on 2 and 3 May 2008, claimed more than 138,000 lives. It affected 2.4 million people, leaving nearly half of them needing assistance.


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:

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