IOM Gears Up for Cyclone Nargis Response
IOM Regional Representative for Southeast Asia Irena
Vojackova-Sollorano flew into Yangon this morning to assess IOM's
possible role in responding to Cyclone Nargis, which has caused
widespread fatalities and destruction across five of Myanmar's 17
While it remains impossible to estimate the full extent of the
damage or the number of fatalities before assessment teams reach
the worst hit areas, eye witness reports from IOM staff in Yangon
and NGO counterparts in Ayeyarwady, the division which bore the
brunt of the storm, provide a bleak picture.
"More or less all landlines are down and it's extremely
difficult to get information from cyclone-affected areas. But from
the reports we are getting, entire villages have been flattened and
the final death toll may be huge," says IOM's acting Chief of
Mission in Yangon Mac Pieczowski.
Pieczowski today dispatched emergency staff
from Yangon to Mon State, the focus of IOM's operations in Myanmar,
where some 200 staff work on grass roots medical projects to combat
malaria, TB and HIV and AIDS among migrant workers and host
Communications with Mon, the coastal state east of Yangon, were
cut by the storm and IOM has had no news of the staff or their
families. Flooding in the north of the state has been reported.
"The emergency team will re-establish communications with our
staff, organize local staff and conduct an assessment of conditions
on the ground in coordination with the Myanmar Red Cross Society
and the Mon State health authorities," says Pieczowski.
"At this point it's essential that agencies work together
quickly to assess the extent of the damage and the greatest areas
of need and share that information with everyone involved," says
"In this type of natural disaster, the aim is to get relief to
the people who need it most in the shortest possible time. To
achieve that we need to work with all our partners and deploy our
staff to where they are most needed," she adds.
IOM launched its Mon State migrant health programme in November
2004, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with
the Ministry of Health. It also has a small staff in Yangon,
working primarily on combating human trafficking and promoting
safer migration through advocacy and public information.
IOM's track record in responding to major natural disasters in
recent years has included playing a leading role in Aceh following
the December 2004 tsunami and in Pakistan following the October
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