Tue 22 Jul 2008
Filed under: International,News
Survivors of Burma’s Cyclone Nargis face a “second emergency” unless relief efforts receive an influx of US $1 billion in international aid over the next three years, according to the first full assessment of the disaster. The joint report, released Monday by the UN, the Burmese regime and Southeast Asia’s main bloc, provides for the first time a comprehensive breakdown of the survivors’ needs in the aftermath of the May 2-3 disaster-details foreign donors have demanded as a condition for aid.
The report puts the damage from the cyclone that devastated the Irrawaddy delta and parts of Rangoon at $4 billion. Infrastructure and asset losses amounted to about $1.7 billion and loss of income was estimated at $2.3 billion.
It paints a dismal picture of the impact of the storm, which killed at least 84,537 people. Another 53,836 are missing and presumed dead.
A wall of water destroyed 450,000 homes and damaged 350,000, the report said. About 75 percent of health facilities were damaged, as were 4,000 or more schools.
In mid-June, 55 percent of survivors had rations enough for only one day or less.
“It was a tragedy of immense proportions,” Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, told a news conference at which the report was released.
Puji Pujiono, a recovery assessment specialist in the Asean assessment team, cited food, shelter, water and sanitation as key priorities.
“The worst of the crisis is over but we are still in a state of emergency. People live in a very precarious condition now. If we fail to sustain the recovery efforts, they may face a second emergency,” he told the Associated Press.
Though filled with grim statistics, the report makes no mention of the junta’s slow response to the disaster.
During the first week following the storm, pictures of bodies floating in the water amid reports that soldiers were standing idly by horrified people around the world. The junta stalled in accepting international aid and even physically prevented relief workers from going to the hardest hit areas.
Many in the international community lashed out at the Burmese government for its response, while also trying to cajole the leaders into opening up to aid.
The United Nations’ humanitarian chief, John Holmes, noted that while Burma eventually cooperated with the UN in humanitarian operations, it was unclear how far that cooperation would extend beyond the storm response.
“I don’t think anyone can say that the Myanmar (Burmese) government is a poster child in international cooperation beyond this narrow field of humanitarian assistance,” he said.
Members of Asean, the region’s main bloc, usually stick to a policy of not interfering in each other’s domestic affairs. But Asean foreign ministers wrapped up their annual meeting Monday with their strongest-ever public criticism of Burma.
The joint statement expressed “deep disappointment” that the country’s junta had yet to free pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. The junta extended Suu Kyi’s detention in May by another year, the sixth straight year that she has remained under house arrest in her dilapidated villa.
Burma has been ruled by the military since 1962. The current junta came to power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy movement. It has kept Suu Kyi in detention for 12 of the last 18 years at varying times.