By LALIT K JHA / UNITED NATIONS
The Irrawaddy News
The United Nations urged member nations on Thursday to donate a further US $280 million to humanitarian relief work in Burma’s Irrawaddy delta, which was hit by a devastating cyclone on May 2-3. This is in addition to an initial appeal of $201 made on May 9.
Giving details of the flash appeal at a special meeting on Thursday morning, UN Under- Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said that the total of $481 million was earmarked for 103 projects submitted by 13 United Nations agencies and 23 non-governmental organizations.
He added that the initial appeal for $201 million had received just under 90 percent funding, leaving a total unmet requirement of some $304 million.
Holmes was accompanied by Surin Pitsuwan, secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), who flew from Singapore to attend the launch of the revised flash appeal. Daniel Baker, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Rangoon, was also present.
The revised appeal includes $112 million for food, $58 million for agriculture, $54 million for early recovery, $50 million for water and sanitation and $50 million for logistics, Holmes said. Other sectors requiring funding included health, shelter, education and protection of children and women, he added.
Responding to a question at a press conference held at the UN headquarters later in the day, Holmes said the greatest increases in the revised appeal were in the agricultural sector and the area of early recovery. Food needs have also grown and those in other sectors had increased proportionally, he observed.
“Increase in requirements for agriculture is not the result of a rise in seed prices, but there is also a need for fertilizers and tillers, as well as animals to draw plows,” Holmes said, adding that as the main economic activity for most people, agriculture inevitably took up the biggest portion of the appeal.
Reiterating satisfaction over the progress of humanitarian relief works in Burma and the cooperation of the military junta, which he said was positive, Holmes said despite initial fears, a second wave of deaths from disease had not come to pass.
They have been averted because of aid operations and the population’s resilience, he said. While the risks had not been overestimated, the help offered by monks and private groups had been underestimated, he observed.
The Asean secretary-general observed that aid pouring in from neighboring countries, especially from Thai monks, was another reason why a second wave of deaths had been avoided.
“It is now a matter of trying to rebuild and building better. Eighty percent of the damaged houses are being rebuilt, but they need sounder construction. Schools had been rebuilt in a makeshift fashion and extended early-recovery activities were needed to address that problem,” he said.
Both Pitsuwan and Holmes praised the Burmese military junta and said that communication channels were opened with the highest authorities and there was no longer any denial of access. According to Baker, so far as many as 739 visas had been issued to United Nations and nongovernmental staff.
The chairman of the Tripartite Core Group had been guaranteed full access to the highest authorities, and problems were being resolved one at a time, Pitsuwan said.