Audio: Dr Assi Min on the challenges of reaching remote villages at the Myanmar, Cyclone Nargis, emergency
13 May 2008
"I am in the capital of Ayeyarwady Division, the worst hit part of Myanmar, Between 95 and 100 percent of the houses have been destroyed. One location is in the extreme south-western part of Myanmar, so a lot of it is small islands and small villages in the islands. Many of the small villages have completely disappeared. There are, probably, no survivors. These villages are no longer liveable. In some villages, there are only five to ten survivors who have been transferred to other villages because they cannot live any more in their own village. Many people are still unaccounted for. "All the boats locally have been stranded or destroyed by the cyclone so it is very difficult to move from the place where we arrived to other islands. It is very complicated because you can bring people and goods to one part of the island then, inside the island, there are many villages where there is no transport. We are carrying, sometimes, sacks of supplies, medical kits or the plastic sheet on motorbikes. The only transport available are motorbikes, inside the islands. "So far we are managing with supplies we had inside the country because we have existing operations so we could mobilise materials, medicines, food from the existing programmes very quickly. So far we are procuring locally but this will, very soon, be no longer possible. "We have the authorisation now to get in charters from abroad so that will solve, a little bit, our problem of availability of goods but that will not solve the problem of reaching, quickly, to those places that are extremely remote and without any infrastructure. "Most of the water sources have been contaminated. We are working on that, to decontaminate the existing wells but our capacity is very limited because we could not send any materials like big bladders with modern decontamination technology so we have, actually, no means, for the time being, in the field. "If we cannot react quickly in water and sanitation, then there is a huge risk of disease outbreak. It is a catastrophe. There were no preventive measures taken. The casualties and the damage are very, very high. It is a big catastrophe. "What we need is quick mobilisation in terms of water supply and other sanitation work. In terms of food and shelter, we should scale up distribution in the coming days. At the beginning, our supply was limited so we had to supply food for only two or three days. We have to go back again to those areas. At the same time, we are reaching new areas. "It is getting better but I would not say that there is food for everybody because we did not reach everybody yet. In one of our first intervention areas there is no other organisation working. There is a small amount of rice provided by the Government but I do not think everybody has food. "For the time being we need more emergency response in terms of food distributions, shelter and health care. It is a complete abyss. The places are desperate. Completely."