Negotiating humanitarian access to cyclone-affected areas of Myanmar: a review

by Julie Belanger and Richard Horsey

On the night of 2 May 2008, Cyclone Nargis made landfall in the Ayeyarwady Delta region of Myanmar. The accompanying tidal surge caused widespread devastation and loss of life in the low-lying townships of the lower Delta, and strong winds and heavy rainfall left major damage and flooding in inland areas, including the former capital Yangon. Official statistics suggest that 140,000 people may have died, and UN assessments indicate that 2.4 million people were severely affected and in need of emergency humanitarian assistance. The ‘Post-Nargis Joint Assessment’ carried out in mid-June showed that the impact of Cyclone Nargis on Myanmar was similar in scale to that suffered by Indonesia following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
The national response to Cyclone Nargis started quickly, but fell far short of what was required. The cyclone, the worst natural disaster in Myanmar’s history, overwhelmed the capacity of the national response. Indeed, few countries would have been able to respond on their own to a situation of this scale. A small-scale humanitarian response by international agencies started immediately in Yangon and in the affected parts of the Delta, based on stocks pre-positioned as part of contingency planning processes, and using the operational capacity (including local staff) of agencies with ongoing projects in these areas. But supplies were extremely limited, and local staff based in the Delta had little experience of humanitarian emergencies and were themselves badly affected by the cyclone. continue

HUMANITARIAN EXCHANGE MAGAZIN HPN http://www.odihpn.org/report.asp?id=2964

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