As water levels recede UN remains committed to recovery effort

28 August 2015
As water levels recede UN remains committed to recovery effort
A plane load of 1,000 family kits donated by the Australian Government arrived in Yangon International Airport on August 10, 2015. Photo: IOM

The Assistant Secretary-General for Crisis Response in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ms Izumi Nakamitsu and her team of UNDP delegates met with representatives of the local media on 26 August. The round-table discussion comes as the response to the countries flood crisis enters its second phase; commencing long term recovery efforts to flood devastated areas where flood waters have receded substantially.
Ms Izumi Nakamitsu has been in the country for 4 days touring flood effected areas and speaking to civil society groups and those effected by the flooding. On 27 August she will be meeting with government officials in Napyitaw and given an overview of the Crisis Management Centre where the government co-ordinates its crisis response efforts with NGOs.
At discussions on Wednesday, Ms Nakamitsu said overall she's impressed with the way the government has handled relief efforts and that they are an improvement on efforts seen in the aftermath of 2008's cyclone Nargis but there is always more room to improve.
“Aid response will never be perfect, we are always learning on the job.” Said Ms Nakamitsu.
As flood waters recede the UNDP will begin to increase its role in recovery efforts. In these areas, over the coming months, the importance will be on re-introducing normality into people’s lives by removing mud from houses and schools and repairing damaged farmland so that people can start to return to their livelihoods said Ms Nakamitsu. 
Whilst flooding in the wake of heavy monsoon rains hasn't caused the same number of casualties as cyclone Nargis in 2008, it has effected a much larger area of the country, with 1.6 million people across 12 of Myanmar's states and divisions effected. 
Almost half a million people are facing food shortages and still require immediate relief, 48,000 of these people have yet to receive aid from the government or INGO's. 
According to UNOCHA, 1 million acres of farmland has been damaged and 400,000 households have been displaced.
In rural areas, many farmers who made their living off the land have lost their income when their crops were destroyed by floodwaters. Many of these farmers were already in debt and with the loss of their land they will be forced to borrow more money to prepare for the next season's harvest.
Ms Nakamitsu couldn't offer specifics on loan assistance plans but said the government was finalising plans for assistance to be released shortly. The UNDP is encouraging lenders to reduce interest rates and extend loan repayment terms for those effected.
Ms Nakamitsu said that the government doesn't have the means to handle recovery efforts of this magnitude on their own and that there is a continual need for assistance by INGO's and civil society groups.
“I have seen the devastation caused by the flooding and yet these people have maintained their dignity and shown their resilience. They can be assured of the UN’s continued support in recovery,” said Ms Nakamitsu.