Friday, 20 June 2008

Urgent funding needed for WFP helicopters to assist in Myanmar

YANGON (RW)– A critical shortage of funds for a helicopter operation providing essential logistical support to nearly 50 aid agencies is threatening the relief effort for 2.4 million survivors of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, the United Nations World Food Programme warned today.

"WFP is leading the way in moving life-saving supplies to distressed communities by boat, truck and air – but it will all grind to a halt by the end of this month unless we get additional funding now," said Chris Kaye, WFP Country Director for Myanmar.

To date, only just over half of the US$50 million required for the logistical operation has been secured and much of this money has already been spent on barges, boats, rivercraft and basic infrastructure needed to reach cyclone survivors in remote, hard-hit villages across the Irrawaddy Delta. The devastation means that the only way of bringing relief to the survivors is by air and waterborne craft which are expensive to contract and run.

The helicopters – now using additional slings to deliver water purification units and tanks to villages and communities in the Delta – have been able to provide more relief items to people living in the worst affected areas.

"The helicopters have reached several villages which had received no help at all during the six weeks since the Cyclone struck," said Kaye, adding that WFP relies mainly on boats and rivercraft for delivering most of the food and humanitarian assistance.

WFP's emergency operation to provide food assistance to 750,000 people in Myanmar is also struggling for funds, after receiving only 45 percent of the US$69.5 million required. Currently there is only sufficient funding to provide one month's ration of rice (one of five items in the food basket) to 750,000 people. To date, a total of 676,000 people in the Delta have received food assistance from WFP.

Overall, since the first helicopter began its rotations on 2 June, 60 locations in the Delta have been reached. Yesterday, helicopter flights reached Ngapudaw Island on the west coast of the Delta region, to settlements accessible only by sea-going vessels approaching from the west.

Besides WFP-supplied food, consisting mostly of high-energy biscuits and rice, helicopter flights have delivered aid for UNICEF, CARE and Merlin that have included shelter materials water purification units and hygiene kits. Medical teams supported by Merlin have also been flown to remote village where they have been able to provide emergency clinics.

Additional flights have deployed teams of humanitarian workers currently undertaking the joint UN-ASEAN and Government of Myanmar Assessment of Cyclone Nargis's damage across the Delta.

The helicopters have also carried out two medical evacuations of Delta inhabitants, including airlifting a small child suffering from serious dengue fever from Bogale to Yangon.

"These helicopters show how the UN can bring immediate help to the people of Myanmar," said Erika Joergensen, WFP Deputy Regional Director. "We appeal to donors to maintain their generosity towards WFP's emergency logistics and telecommunications operations, which our fellow humanitarian agencies depend on to save lives.."

Following authorization by the Government of Myanmar on 16 May, WFP mobilised a fleet of 10 helicopters to help deliver food and other relief supplies to victims of Cyclone Nargis.

As the lead agency for logistics coordination and the supply of operational logistics capacity for the UN and non-governmental organisations working in Myanmar, WFP has received 59 percent of the US$50.5 million it requires. Donations have been received from: UK ($9.9 million); UN CERF, Common Funds and Agencies ($4.2 million); Australia ($3.7 million); European Commission ($3.1 million); United States ($4 million); Canada ($2 million); Denmark ($1.4 million); Norway ($970,000); Finland ($620,000).

WFP's emergency operation to provide food assistance to 755,000 people requires US$69.5 million and has a current shortfall of 55 percent. Donors include: European Commission ($7.8 million); UN CERF, Common Funds and Agencies ($5 million); United States ($3.4 million); Australia ($2.8 million); Japan ($2.5 million); Canada ($2.7 million); Germany ($1.6 million); Private donors ($1.1 million); Switzerland ($960,000); Italy ($780,000) Spain ($780,000); Finland ($620,000); OPEC ($500,000); Luxembourg ($200,000); Greece ($200,000) and Korea ($100,000) and Lithuania ($27,000).

Recent video footage from Myanmar is available by contacting Jonathan Dumont in Rome on +39 06 6513 3152 (

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: this year, WFP plans to feed more than 90 million people in around 80 countries.

WFP now provides RSS feeds to help journalists keep up with the latest press releases, videos and photos as they are published on For more details see:

For more information please contact (email address:

Chris Kaye, WFP Country Director and Representative, Myanmar, Tel. +95 1 546198 ext 2100, Cell. +959 510 8161,

Hakan Tongkul, WFP Deputy Director, Myanmar, Tel. +95 1 546 198 ext 2101

Paul Risley, WFP Bangkok, Tel. +66-2-6554115, Cell. +66-81-701-9208

Brenda Barton, Deputy Director Communications, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132602, Cell. +39-3472582217 (ISDN line available)

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