SOURCE: Save the Children

May 14, 2008 17:13 ET

Despite New Storm Threat, Save the Children Continues Life-Saving Relief Efforts in Myanmar

WESTPORT, CT--(Marketwire - May 14, 2008) - As Save the Children continues to bring lifesaving aid to children and families left homeless by Cyclone Nargis, the agency's 500 relief workers in Myanmar are now bracing for a second major storm that could complicate aid efforts.

The United Nations' weather center reported Wednesday that it is tracking a nascent tropical storm off the coast of Myanmar that could become a cyclone within the next 24 hours.

Over the last several days, rain and wind not related to the new storm have added to the misery of displaced people, about half of them living in makeshift shelters. It also has added to the dangers of water travel for Save the Children staff and has postponed the agency's launch of a mobile health clinic.

Despite these challenges, Save the Children has reached 115,000 survivors, including about more than 40,000 children, in storm-ravaged areas of Myanmar's delta region, both by truck and boat, providing food, water and essential materials for cooking and shelter.

Andrew Kirkwood, country director for Myanmar, said: "We are moving as quickly as we possibly can and bringing shelter materials to the people of the Delta and around Yangon -- at the same time taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of our staff. However we worry that if a storm is coming, it will compound the hardships faced by children and their families. It also will increase the likelihood of more children being separated from their parents."

Earlier this week, Save the Children announced that its first plane load of relief supplies had arrived in Myanmar, passed inspection by the government and is now in the hands of Save the Children staffers for distribution in the hardest hit areas of the delta region. New supplies include tents, water purification straws, and other life-saving materials. For the past ten days, Save the Children has been purchasing supplies within Myanmar to supplement its massive relief effort.

Kirkwood said that the agency's first relief boat reached the delta area of Pyin Kayaing on Sunday. The team distributed rice, water and oral-rehydration solution to 9,400 people, including 2,350 children under 12, in 13 villages. Families in this area are staying in crowded monasteries living in makeshift shelters made from plastic sheeting.

While relief efforts are expanding, staff members warn that clean water remains in short supply and many communities are still isolated and without help. The survival of tens of thousands of children and their families remains in doubt.

"Time is of the essence, and we must assist as many people as possible in the coming days," said Ned Olney, Save the Children's vice president for international humanitarian response. "Survivors are facing severe threats to their health -- from waterborne disease, malaria, from sleeping out in the open and from having to go so many days with little food and water. Already we are seeing numerous cases of diarrhea, a major killer of young children."

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