EU and ASEAN raise $100m for Nargis relief

Nov 25, 2009 (DVB), More than $US100 million has been raised for cyclone Nargis relief efforts by Southeast Asia's regional bloc and the European Union, it was announced today.

Aid groups have repeatedly warned that the situation in Burma's southern Irrawaddy delta, where the cyclone struck in May last year, remains fragile.

At a meeting of the Tripartite Core Group (TCG) in Bangkok today, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) announced that it had raised $US88 million for relief efforts, but warned that more needed to be done.

"While much has been done, there are many affected communities across the delta who are still highly vulnerable and require urgent continued humanitarian assistance, especially in the areas of shelter, livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene, education and health," said ASEAN secretary general, Surin Pitsuwan.

An EU delegation also at the meeting announced a further $US21 million "to meet outstanding needs in the delta." Fears have however abounded about graft in relation to aid donated to Nargis-affected areas.

Earlier in the year the debate lead to a spat between a Thailand-based Burmese NGO, the Emergency Assistance Team (EAT-BURMA), and international groups such as Save the Children.

EAT had claimed that much of the aid for cyclone relief was siphoned off by the Burmese military government, who recently earned the country a place at the foot of Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.

EAT seemed to suggest in a report that aid should not be given whilst the military junta took such a central role in distribution. The organisations targeted in the report invited EAT staff to the volatile delat region, which provoked a sharp reaction from the organization which feared the arrests of its mostly Burmese staff.

An aid pledge by the Australian government was yesterday met with similar skepticism by Burma economics expert Sean Turnell, who told DVB that state corruption in Burma could lead to aid being misused.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), who have been active in the delta since the ruling junta lifted the blockade on overseas aid agencies, has also publicised its post-cyclone relief efforts.

"NRC has built more than 1,000 permanent shelters with cyclone-resistant features in the severely affected areas in the delta," NRC secretary general Elisabeth Rasmusson said. "For the time being, we are setting up shelters at a speed of 200 per month."

Reporting by Joseph Allchin

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