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WFP food dispatches continue

More than two weeks have passed since Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar. WFP continues to make progress and has now dispatched enough food to feed over 250,000 people in the affected areas.

More than two weeks have passed since Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar on 2 and 3 May 2008. WFP continues to make progress and has now dispatched enough food to feed over 250,000 people in the affected areas.

However, WFP field staff report that entire communities exist where survivors are living without any outside assistance. Food, drinking water and shelter remain immediate necessities.

Logistics

So far, WFP has managed to organise a total of 13 air cargo shipments into Yangon airport. These shipments have included high-energy biscuits, medical kits, tarpaulins and other vital humanitarian materials such as communications equipment and even small boats to facilitate staff movement around the worst-affected parts of the Ayeyarwady delta.

A number of key roads are reported to be in bad condition, including the road from Kyayklat to Bogale and the one from Myaungmya to Labutta. The two bridges previously reported as damaged between Yangon and Bogale have been repaired.

The complex terrain of the delta, the state of road infrastructure in the region and the need to move large quantities of food mean WFP is looking to expand its inland waterway operation by contracting barges and tugs to work between the main ports in the delta and from Yangon. Three boats with a total transport capacity of 570 tons have been contracted for WFP food delivery from Yangon. Another barge and tug have been identified in Pathein.

An air operations hub managed by WFP at Bangkok’s former international airport, Don Mueang, became operational over the weekend. WFP is taking requests from other UN agencies and NGOs for cargo handling in Thailand as a staging post into Myanmar.

Procurement

WFP has purchased enough rice inside Myanmar to feed over 1.5 million people with a two-week ration of rice. A further 1,050 tons of beans have also been purchased. This local purchase is allowing WFP to move food as quickly and cost-effectively as possible to those who need it most.

Visas and staff

WFP has now received 17 visas for international staff since the cyclone struck and currently has 24 staff deployed to the worst-affected areas of the delta.

WFP has established two sub-offices in the Ayeyarwady delta region - in Labutta and Bogale -and has relocated national staff members from the north to the affected areas in the south to step up its response capacity. A logistics hub is being set up in Pyapon and another hub may be established in Pathein.

WFP's Emergency Operation in Myanmar

WFP’s Emergency Operation for Myanmar with a budget of US$69.5 million will deliver a complete food basket to a total of 750,000 people in need of immediate food assistance following Cyclone Nargis, which left hundreds of thousands stranded and without food, water or shelter.

The daily ration will meet a minimum daily requirement of 2,100 kilocalories, composed of rice, pulses, vegetable oil, and salt. Ready-to-eat food (e.g. high energy biscuits, rice-lentil mix and supplementary foods for young children) will be distributed in the initial weeks to support people without access to cooking facilities. WFP is setting up a distribution system with other UN and NGO cooperating partners. There is also a plan to distribute cash on a limited basis to cyclone victims for food purchase in urban areas where food markets are functioning.

So far, WFP's operation has received US$8.5 million in confirmed contributions, including over US$5 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). This is in addition to contributions from Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Australia, Italy and private donors. Further significant donations are expected to be confirmed in the coming days.

Background

Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar on 2 and 3 May 2008, sweeping through the Ayeyarwady delta region and Yangon. Forty townships in the Yangon division and seven townships in Ayeyarwady division remain on the government’s list of disaster areas.

The Ayeyarwady delta, which bore the brunt of the storm, is known as the country’s granary and has an extensive fishery industry along its coast. Much of the recent harvest was already complete, but rice stored for household consumption has most likely been lost in the most affected areas. The loss of crops, shrimp farms, fishing ponds, nursery hatcheries, fishing boats and other productive assets has led to increased unemployment of the extreme poor who depend on wage labour for their livelihood. These numbers are expected to rise further as assessment teams gain access to the most affected areas.

Once one of the largest rice exporters in Asia, Myanmar currently faces difficulties in providing adequate food to poor and vulnerable families. Despite being a food-surplus country, one-third of children remain malnourished; one-fifth are born underweight. High chronic malnutrition rates indicate a worsening of the food security situation due to insufficient nutritious food, poor access to health facilities, inadequate water and sanitation facilities, poor maternal and child care and limited livelihood opportunities. In the 2007/08 UNDP Human Development Index, Myanmar is placed 132nd out of 177 countries.

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