Brussels, 11 May 2008
Louis Michel welcomes improved access for relief agencies but warns that "hundreds of thousands of lives are in the balance in Myanmar"
The European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, has welcomed indications of improving access for relief agencies striving to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis.
But he stressed: "Hundreds of thousands of human lives are in the balance and a massive international operation is still needed in the Irrawaddy Delta to save those lives. When disaster strikes on this kind of scale, it becomes a matter of global solidarity. Myanmar should embrace the experience of the international humanitarian community gained in crisis zones around the world. Their work is independent and impartial. That is why I urge the government to let more relief workers in and to let them go to the stricken zone to work alongside the local authorities in assisting the victims. The Commission is ready to give more but the funds won't be much use without professional delivery on the ground."
A member of the Commission's humanitarian field staff has just returned from a needs assessment mission to Laputta in the heart of the Delta region. It was reported to her that as many as 40,000 people were killed in this district alone during the cyclone which raged for twelve hours. Survivors from villages at the coast have evacuated to Laputta which itself suffered 80% destruction. Tens of thousands of people are living in informal camps, with many more along the roadsides. While the authorities and relief agencies have been able to distribute some food and other basic essentials, huge needs remain. Disease is one of the biggest concerns as so many streams are contaminated by bodies – both human and animals.