Action Against Hunger: Myanmar Emergency: Reports from The Ground
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 8, 2008
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Action Against Hunger - USA
James L. Phelan
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Myanmar Emergency: Reports from The Ground
The Action Against Hunger Team Assesses That The Situation is Critical
WASHINGTON, DC - May 8 - Cyclone Nargis, which struck Southern Myanmar on 2nd May, has had devastating effects on the country. Estimates suggest that more than 24,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands more have been affected by the catastrophe. According to Action Against Hunger’s teams on the ground, the need for water, food and shelter will be most urgent in the coastal regions. In addition needs are immense in Yangon, where the population is facing a major surge in the price of basic foodstuffs.
With phone lines down, roads blocked, electricity networks destroyed and most areas completely isolated, it is very difficult for aid agencies to gain access to those affected. According to Action Against Hunger’s teams on the ground, thousands of survivors are in urgent need of shelter, water and food.
Yangon: in just three days, the price of water has increased by over 500%
Yangon is the most populated area of the country. The lack of water and the threat of food shortages in the region have led to a dramatic increase in the price of basic foodstuffs. “The price of rice and oil increased by 60% in just three days and the price of water increased by 500%,” says Felix Leger, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Myanmar. “Electricity pylons and homes have been destroyed or damaged, and people are queuing for water.” The rise in prices comes at a time when the current global food crisis is already having a significant impact on the country. This increase in prices has highlighted the significance of the lack of drinking water and the pressure on food security in Yangon, especially as the cyclone has destroyed a region known as the ‘granary of the country’. Action Against Hunger teams are currently assessing the immediate needs in the Yangon area.
Southern Myanmar: water needs are immense in the Irrawady delta
Myanmar’s Irrawady delta region has been the worst hit by the cyclone. The delta is criss-crossed by a vast network of streams and mangrove swamps with over 8 million people living in the area. It is believed that at least 80% of towns and villages have been destroyed by cyclone Nargis. “While the full toll and extent of the devastation is not yet known, a cyclone of this severity will most certainly have contaminated water points, leading to a lack of drinking water and a serious risk of outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea,” says Felix Leger. In February 2008, an Action Against Hunger survey found that 68% of people living in the region drank water from swamps and streams as well as unprotected water points. In addition, it was found that 80% of water points were already inadequate in terms of water quality and were not built to resist disasters such as strong cyclones. The risk of an outbreak of water-borne diseases is therefore particularly great.
“The delta region is known as the country’s granary and the cyclone has hit before the harvest,” comments Felix Leger. If the harvest has been destroyed this will have a devastating impact on food security in Myanmar.
Access to the delta region has always been extremely difficult due to the poor quality of the roads and the need to travel between villages by boat. Despite these constraints, Action Against Hunger teams in Myanmar are currently assessing the situation and preparing to launch an emergency operation targeting the needs of the most affected people through:
- Distribution of water purifying tablets
- Provision of water supply
- Rehabilitation and protection of water points
- Distributions of essential non-food items and emergency shelters
- Basic hygiene promotion
- Environmental clearing and clean up
- Provision of food, cash and/or vouchers depending on local market accessibility
Action Against Hunger / Action Contre la Faim (ACF), an international relief and development organization committed to saving the lives of malnourished children and families, provides sustainable access to safe water and long-term solutions to hunger. For nearly three decades, ACF has pursued its vision of a world without hunger by combating hunger in emergency situations of conflict, natural disaster, and chronic food insecurity.