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UNHCR shelter supplies reach Yangon by air, road


UNHCR shelter supplies reach Yangon by air, road

UNHCR's office in Myanmar receives nearly 50 additional tonnes of shelter supplies in the last 24 hours to boost its aid distribution in areas devastated by Cyclone Nargis.
13 May 2008
A UNHCR distribution of blankets at a temporary shelter in Yangon.

BANGKOK, Thailand, May 13 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency's Myanmar office has received nearly 50 additional tonnes of shelter supplies in the last 24 hours to boost its aid distribution in areas devastated by Cyclone Nargis.

On Tuesday morning, a chartered aircraft landed in Myanmar's main city of Yangon with 24 tonnes of plastic sheets, blankets and kitchen sets from UNHCR's stockpiles in Dubai, according to the latest information.

UNHCR staff collected the items from Yangon airport for immediate delivery through community-based and non-governmental organizations (NGO), based on priorities set by Myanmar's Disaster Management Committee.

Also on their way to the cyclone-affected areas are 22 tonnes of tents and plastic sheets from UNHCR's stocks in north-western Thailand. A truck carrying the supplies arrived on Monday afternoon after driving two days in heavy rain from the Thai-Myanmar border. The 4,600 plastic sheets and some 200 tents on board are expected to help some 10,000 cyclone victims.

"Once the truck arrived, we immediately unloaded it despite the rain and handed them over to NGO partners for urgent distribution," said Marc Rapoport, UNHCR's officer-in-charge in Yangon.

Once in Myanmar, the aid had been offloaded onto a local truck at a monastery near the border crossing point at Myawaddy. The aid was waved through at major checkpoints, but sometimes the drivers had to stop and explain their mission at smaller checkpoints. They encountered several small landslides caused by monsoon rains. These had to be cleared and the drivers had to stop at night. Some of the road is being repaired or extended.

Much of UNHCR's emergency shelter materials have already made it to the affected areas. A first airlift from Dubai last Saturday brought 4,500 plastic sheets, 17,000 blankets, more than 1,500 kitchen sets and 7,500 mosquito nets.

UNHCR's staff and partners have distributed blankets and plastic sheets in makeshift and temporary shelters around Yangon. Supplies have also been sent to Bogale and Laputto in the hardest-hit areas of the Irrawaddy River delta.

"We expect another flight to arrive from Dubai by mid-week with 40 tonnes of shelter materials," said Rapoport, adding that plans for a fourth airlift were under way. "At the same time, UNHCR is actively looking locally and in the region for available supplies to procure and rapidly dispatch to Yangon."

He noted that UNHCR had responded within days of the May 3 cyclone by buying and distributing in Myanmar US$50,000 worth of tarpaulins, canned food and biscuits.

The UN has requested US$187 million to respond to the cyclone emergency for three months. Out of that amount, UNHCR has asked donors for US$6 million to help some 250,000 people with temporary shelter materials and domestic items.

By Vivian Tan in Bangkok, Thailand