The World Food Programme has begun distributing food in cyclone-damaged areas of Yangon as it ramped up efforts to respond to the looming humanitarian needs in the southern coastal regions of Myanmar hardest hit by the powerful Cyclone Nargis three days ago.
Although we do not know the full extent of damage and needs, we know they are large
Tony Banbury, Asia Regional Director for WFP
Reports from assessment teams remain preliminary but indicate tremendous storm damage to homes and shelter within villages and communities in the rice-cultivating areas of the coastal region and an increasing death toll.
“WFP food assistance has now begun to reach persons who are without shelter or food resources in and around Yangon,” said Chris Kaye, WFP Country Director. Kaye said additional truckloads of WFP food are being dispatched tomorrow to Labutta Township, an area hardest hit by the cyclone in the Ayeryarwaddy Delta region.
"Enormous logistics challenge"
As further information from our assessment teams in the field is reported in, WFP will increase the amount of food being distributed to those who need it the most.
WFP has taken initial steps to meet the enormous logistics challenge of bringing in disaster relief supplies, equipment and prepared foods urgently needed by people in areas badly hit by the cyclone. Many of the coastal areas most affected remain cut off and isolated due to flooding and road damage.
“We are in close contact with the Government on the response,” continued Kaye.
“So far, the Government has provided some valuable cooperation. In order to meet the needs of the persons most badly affected by the disaster, much more cooperation will be required in the short term,” he said.
WFP now has more than 800 metric tonnes of food stocks available in WFP warehouses in Yangon, and will deliver these food resources to all areas in need, including the Ayeyarwaddy Division, the largest and hardest hit of the five major Divisions affected by the cyclone.
WFP will airlift additional food supplies including high energy biscuits into Myanmar as soon as possible.
“WFP and other emergency response agencies must be able to plan, assess and operate in a challenging emergency environment all at the same time,” said Tony Banbury, Asia Regional Director for WFP.
“Although we do not know the full extent of damage and needs, we know they are large. WFP is committed to doing everything we can do to help, and we are mobilising our full range of resources to respond to the most urgent needs,” he said.
WFP has taken initial steps to make emergency funding, disaster relief supplies and food stocks from across the Asia region available for use in responding to Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, but will need further international assistance to meet the extensive needs of those people worst affected by the cyclone.
An initial emergency operation, launched today and valued at US$500,000, will fund immediate airlifts of food aid and cover initial emergency response staff deployments in Myanmar.
In the coming days, WFP will plan for and launch a larger emergency operation covering greater humanitarian needs as determined with the completion of ongoing rapid field assessments and reflecting the views of the Government of Myanmar.
Thirty metric tonnes of food from WFP stocks in Myanmar were distributed to persons whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the Yangon region through WFP partner MSF Holland, which operates several feeding centres in the city.
Initial needs for the hundreds of thousands of persons left homeless by the cyclone include emergency medical supplies, water purification kits, ready to eat foods and plastic sheeting for repairing shelters and homes.