UN providing aid for landslide victims

July 15, 2009 (DVB), Various United Nations agencies have been providing aid to victims of the landslide last week in northern Burma's Kachin state that they say has left 24 dead and around 1,300 affected.

Following torrential rain in the area, houses built on a jade mine dump near Phakant town were swept away and widespread flooding occurred.

Initial reports said that around 30 people had died, while the Kachin News Group (KNG) quoted government officials last weeks who cited around 100 fatalities caused by the landslide.

Both the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) are providing aid to victims in the Phakant area, some of which is done through cooperative partners on the ground.

"WFP [is] providing just under 16 tons of food aid for a one-month period, and UNICEF [is] working with health authorities on the ground to ensure that sufficient health services are provided," said Antonio Massella, deputy head of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Burma.

He said that government authorities were working closely with aid organizations, who "have a long-standing relationship with these authorities, and that's provided a good foundation for provision of assistance".

A statement released yesterday by the UNOCHA said that essential drugs were also being provided to local hospitals and sites where people were sheltering.

Those affected are being accomodated "in informal settlement sites, in monasteries mainly", said Massella, and the UN "has not seen any widespread concerns in terms of illness".

Concerns about subsequent illnesses stem largely from cyclone Nargis last year, following which water-borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery became endemic.

The area is known as Jade Land, famed for its lucrative jade mines and ruby mines. Such accidents are relatively common during the rainy season , around 20 people were killed in flash floods in the area last year.

According to the KNG, jade tycoons in the area have been distributing food and water to those affected.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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