Remarks by Ms. Renata Dessallien, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator at the National Natural Disaster Management Committee: Recovery Forum III

Dec 11, 2015

Your Excellences Members of National Natural Disaster Management Committee,

Members of Senior Advisory Group and Senior Government Officials,

Dear colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for the opportunity to address the Third Recovery Forum on behalf of the United Nations.

As you know, in July and August the entire country found itself in the middle of a major (according to some accounts, unprecedented) natural disaster. Thousands of farms and small businesses disappeared under water or were destroyed by landslides. Hundreds of thousands of people had to leave homes to evacuation sites. Millions more suffered from disruptions in social services and from losing access to goods and markets. As we know today, damages and economic impact took away 3% of Myanmar’s gross domestic product. Whole regions (Chin, parts of Sagain) were simply cut off from the rest of the country. The situation was so dire that there were even concerns that the calamity and its aftermath may affect the conduct of parliamentary elections.

And yet, after little more than four months, we see the nation rebuilding. An enormous outpouring of solidarity by ordinary people of Myanmar and civil society groups; quick and resolute support by the private sector; immediate mobilization of support from the international community; and, above all, decisive and inclusive leadership by the Government and the resilience of Myanmar people have made a huge difference. According to latest estimates, out of 800 thousands acres of flooded paddy fields, close to 600 thousands acres have been already rehabilitated and work is ongoing in most of other affected fields. Two-thirds of damaged and destroyed households have been rebuilt, as have two-thirds of schools. Thanks to heroic efforts of Myanmar construction workers and engineers, Chin is reconnected with the country by road and is receiving substantial relief supplies. And, of course, today we are ‘armed’ with a thorough needs assessment, based on robust data and analysis for each sector and cross-sector priorities and offering clear direction and a comprehensive set of actions to guide the country in building back better.

Yet, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have not fully completed the job.

First, while the recovery action has been nothing less than extremely impressive throughout the country, more than 9000 people (mostly in Chin) are staying in camps and temporary shelter in harsh conditions, which are getting even harsher with the onset of winter. Unless their houses and livelihoods are rebuilt at an accelerated pace, these communities will remain in need of humanitarian assistance, not only for shelter, but also for food, health and education services.

Second, fully-fledged restoration of transport infrastructure, massive reconstruction across the country and resumption of market activities will definitely bring about tangible benefits in people’s lives, especially those who are able and economically active. However, most vulnerable members of the society (women, children, elderly, persons with disabilities) still require cash assistance, rebuilding of schools and hospitals, provision of additional education and medical supplies, and, in some situations deployment of social workers.

And third, ladies and gentlemen, as we are meeting in December we cannot forget that the next rainy season is only few short months away. Next year’s weather may create unpredictable and damaging impact because of the expected El Nino effect. Even if the recovery picks up its pace, we will not have the luxury of considering the job done unless we review and strengthen capacities, rules and procedures for disaster preparedness under the leadership of National Natural Disaster Management Committee. To this end, last few months gave us an enormous array of experiences and lessons learned which can be reflected in Standing Orders under the Disaster Management Law

The tasks of mitigating the impact of natural disasters, of avoiding the worst and of helping people to get back on their feet are mostly accomplished. The bigger challenges of assisting the rehabilitation of the hardest hit communities, of completing the building back better, of boosting economic growth in affected areas and of strengthening disaster resilience across the entire country still lie ahead. These challenges may appear daunting but, just as the close partnership between the people of Myanmar and government, civil society and private sector, ensured an impressive response in the last four months, so it will help to overcome the remaining challenges.

On this important collective journey, which will be guided by the Needs Assessment, Myanmar can count on the solidarity and support from the international community, including humanitarian and development agencies of your United Nations. Just as we responded, by your side, to the relief and recovery efforts, and contributed to the Post Floods and Needs Assessment, so we will be by your side assisting you to address the remaining  needs and challenges ahead.

Thank you for the attention. Kye zu ti ba de.

Nay Pyi Taw, 11 October 2015


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