By THE IRRAWADDY
Hundreds of thousands of survivors in the area of Burma devastated by Cyclone Nargis one year ago are in extremely vulnerable temporary shelters that may not survive the upcoming monsoon season, United Nations’ officials warned on Tuesday.
"At the moment half a million people still live in tremendously poor housing conditions, and with the monsoon coming we are now facing a humanitarian crisis again," said Mariko Sato, a rapid response coordinator for the UN human settlement programme UN-HABITAT, in a media conference in Geneva.
Cyclone Nargis devastated the Irrawaddy delta and Rangoon Division on May 2, 2008, killing at least 140,000 people and displacing 2.4 million. In the meantime, many survivors of the deadly storm continue to live in makeshift huts, mainly built from bamboo and sheets of tarpaulin.
"The tarpaulins and thatched (roofs) are dilapidated or destroyed, and they need to be replaced before the monsoon season," Sato told journalists there.
Bishow Parajuli, a resident UN humanitarian coordinator in Burma, said that about US $10 million for minimum shelter repair was urgently needed. About US $315 million in international aid came through last year, broadly meeting the targets for health, food and education, he said.
A Tripartite Core Group (TCG) involving the Burmese regime, Asean and the United Nations launched a three-year US $691 million recovery plan in February. So far about $100 million has come in, Parajuli said.
According to the UN, Burmese families in need received $23 on average to repair thatched roofs following the cyclone. That compares with an average of $10,000 per family in Sri Lanka for shelter after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Parajuli also told reporters that the process of approving visas for aid workers was slowing down and it will impact the arrival of new aid workers before the cyclone season.
Following the cyclone, the military government had initially prevented aid workers from entering the country, but eventually relaxed its objections and opened the door to many humanitarian aid workers.
According to the AP news agency, Parajuli told reporters in Geneva that the UN is urging the military government to learn from past experience that has shown a fast-track visa system is essential to moving a large number of aid workers into the country quickly.