UNICEF begins rebuilding schools in cyclone-stricken Myanmar
By Michael Bociurkiw
YANGON, Myanmar 17 June 2008 – The weather has become an added challenge to delivering aid in cyclone-ravaged Myanmar.
On Sunday, a UNICEF mission delivering school tents was hampered by strong wind gusts, rain and pools of mud, making the unloading of some 900 kg of supplies very difficult.
Myanmar's Government has granted access to the United Nations to use helicopters for delivering aid to those hit by last month's cyclone. But making deliveries often means battling strong winds and rain.
Reaching villages a challenge
In addition, the challenge of locating villages heavily damaged by the cyclone slows deliveries. Even with detailed maps, helicopter crews and aid workers often have to rely on local villagers to point them in the right direction.
UNICEF and its partners have been able to reach people who live in the southern Irrawaddy Delta, but more aid is needed. Where villages have lost school buildings, UNICEF is delivering about 80 large tents that will provide safe learning spaces for more than 6,000 children.
The UN official in the hub logistics office at Laputta Township in Irrawaddy said his teams had delivered food to all the villages in the area at least once before the helicopters arrived.
New help for worst-affected areas
Now, the helicopters have given UN agencies a new avenue into the worst-affected areas, which were previously only accessible by boat.
Hard-hit Laputta Township, where UNICEF has been making deliveries by air for the past several days, is a large coastal area with more than 500 villages, dissected by hundreds of waterways.
Cyclone Nargis made landfall in early May, killing more than 77,000 people in the Southeast Asian country, according to a UN estimate. Some 55,000 others are reportedly missing, and as many as 600,000 people, mainly in the Irrawaddy Delta, have had to be relocated.