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WFP makes progress in Myanmar

Almost a month has passed since Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar. WFP continues to make progress in reaching victims and has now dispatched enough food to the affected areas to feed over 570,000 people with a two-week ration of rice.

Almost a month has passed since Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar. WFP continues to make progress in reaching victims of the cyclone. However, WFP field staff are finding entire communities with every building destroyed and survivors living without any outside assistance. Food, drinking water and shelter remain immediate necessities.

Food deliveries and distribution s

Thus far, WFP has dispatched food to eight townships in and around Yangon and eight (Bogale, Labutta, Pyapon, Kyaiklat, Maubin, Ngaputaw, Dedaye and Pathein) in the Ayeyarwady delta.

WFP has now dispatched enough food to the affected areas to feed 575,000 people with a two-week ration of rice. WFP estimates that nearly 485,000 people have received a first ration of food since the cyclone struck. High-energy biscuits for over 107,000 children and ready-to-eat meals for about 2,500 people have also been dispatched.

However, these quantities fall short of WFP's target, as many people still haven't been reached with food rations while others may now be due to receive more as part of the next distribution cycle.

Logistics

The staging area at Don Muang has taken over as the main hub for air transport of humanitarian items into Myanmar. Currently, one Ilyushin 76 and one Antonov 12 are serving the air bridge into Yangon. The capacity can be increased quickly if required. Regular flights continue across the air bridge from Bangkok into Yangon and from other points direct into Myanmar.

WFP has now contracted four barges and push tugs, and two river boats for inter-agency use in the delta region. They are capable of moving a total of 3,050 metric tons of food and other humanitarian supplies. A large number of smaller boats have been contracted in the delta to ferry supplies to outlying areas. Two large barges were loaded with food and other relief supplies in Yangon on Thursday (29 May), bound for the worst affected parts of the delta.

WFP has now contracted 30 trucks of varying capacities for inter-agency use to deliver food and other humanitarian supplies in the delta region, but given the terrain of the delta the operational emphasis is on the inland waterway operation.

WFP is currently using 4,000 square metres of warehouse space in Yangon in support of its own food assistance operation as well as for the vital humanitarian supplies of other UN agencies and NGOs. The warehouse allows for quick off-loading from the airport and onward prioritising for the delta. In terms of temporary warehousing in delta, Labutta now has seven wiikhalls in place. Two are up in Pyapon.

Procurement

WFP has been able to purchase 10,000 tons of rice on the local market in Myanmar. A further 1,000 tons of beans have also been purchased in addition to 200 tons of salt.

WFP is seeking to provide a full basket of rice, beans, cooking oil and salt. For the time-being, rice and high-energy biscuits are being prioritised.

Visas and staff

A total of 36 visas have been approved for WFP international staff since the cyclone struck and there are currently 21 staff members in-country.

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. WFP has 37 staff currently deployed in the affected areas outside Yangon.

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$25 million in confirmed contributions, including US $7.8 million from ECHO, over US$5 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), US$3.4 million from the United States and US$1.5 million from Germany. Further significant donations are expected to be confirmed in the coming days. US$15 million has been confirmed against the US$50 million logistics Special Operation.

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.