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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 30th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From:  unobserver at iom.int
Subject: International Organization for Migration: Press Briefing Notes 29 July 2008.
Date: July 29, 2008

MYANMAR – UK Backs IOM Medical Teams in Cyclone-Affected Irrawaddy Delta – The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has pledged £428,000 (US$ 850,000) to support IOM medical teams providing primary health care to Cyclone Nargis survivors in the Irrawaddy Delta.

The project, which was included in the UN Flash Appeal for Myanmar issued earlier this month, targets primary health care needs in South West Bogale (Tabin Seik), Eastern Bogale (Amar) and Mawlamyinegyun.

IOM mobile medical teams, using Zodiac inflatables and other boats to access remote locations hit by the cyclone, have treated over 24,600 patients in 327 villages in the Delta townships of Bogale, Pyapon and Mawlamyinegyun since the cyclone struck Myanmar on 2nd May.

IOM has also set up 15 temporary tent clinics in areas where medical infrastructure was completely or partially destroyed by the cyclone.

“People are mainly suffering from the effects of unclean water and food, lack of proper shelter and clothing, and a lack of proper sanitation,” says IOM Myanmar National Health Coordinator Dr Aye Aye Than, who heads up the Bogale health team.

The DFID funding will support both the mobile teams and the clinics for up to six months, employing some 44 medical staff, together with ancillary logistics and coordination personnel, as well as paying for essential medicines and medical supplies.

“This funding will allow us to meet one of our top priorities – continuing to deliver primary health care to cyclone survivors – while communities start to recover and rebuild pre-cyclone health infrastructure,” says IOM Health Programme Manager Dr Nenette Motus.

“We are also appealing for additional funding to rebuild primary health care facilities and birth centres, strengthen the delivery of mental health services and raise HIV and AIDS awareness in communities displaced by the cyclone,” she adds.

IOM’s Cyclone Nargis relief operations in the Delta are now coordinated from offices in Bogale, Pyapon and Mawlamyinegyun townships. In addition to providing direct medical aid, they have included the ongoing distribution of relief items including tarpaulins, jerry cans, chlorine for water purification, hygiene/family kits, rain ponchos and insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Other donors contributing to IOM’s response to the disaster include the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), USAID/OFDA, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), AmeriCares Foundation, International Medical Corps, and Chevron.

For more information, please contact Chris Lom at IOM’s Regional Office in Bangkok. Email:  clom at iom.int. Tel. +66.819275215.

——————–

In the light of the continuing releases by Inner City Press – from the UN building in New York – the UN has lost at least US$10 million in fraudulent exchange rates with the Myanmar government – so how does the UK handle these disbursements for the humanitarian activities in Myanmar/Burma?

Sir John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, is from the UK and it seems that he is continuously fooled by the Burmese Officers’ junta.

We just picked up articles with information right out of Myanmar –

 www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art…

 www.irrawaddy.org/article1.php?ar…

Currency Loss Unacceptable, but UN Aid to Continue: Holmes
By LALIT K JHA, Tuesday, July 29, 2008. The Irrawaddy, Covering Burma and South East Asia out of Thailand.

NEW YORK — The chief UN humanitarian official said on Monday that the loss of crucial foreign aid due to distorted currency exchange rates, while “unacceptable,” should not be the basis for stopping or restricting UN-led international relief operations in cyclone-devastated parts of Burma.

“The losses are significant, but not absolutely gigantic,” John Holmes, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York on his return from a three-day trip to Burma.

Holmes was in Burma last week visiting parts of the Irrawaddy delta, which was devastated by Cyclone Nargis in the first week of May, to review the progress of humanitarian relief work in the region, and then traveled to the new capital, Naypyidaw, to meet the prime minister and other senior junta officials.

This was the first visit to Burma by a top-level UN official since Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s trip to the country in May.

Holmes estimated that the UN, which was initially reluctant to acknowledge the substantial loss of foreign aid money due to a currency exchange mechanism dictated by the junta, has lost some US $10 million of the $200 million in aid money it has so far dedicated to the relief effort.



“Clearly this is a significant problem in terms of the loss generated,” Holmes said. “That’s why we’ve raised it with the government now.” He added that the UN was pressing the Burmese regime to help minimize the currency loss.

Responding to a volley of questions from the media on this issue, Holmes said the impact of the currency exchange rate was being felt in areas where money is being spent locally, and not on imported goods or international staff salaries.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has calculated that the exchange rate affected about one third of total aid expenditure, he said.

Holmes said, clearly the current situation “is not acceptable when we’re losing 20 percent, even if it’s only on some of our expenditures.” He acknowledged that donors have expressed concern about the matter, but this is unlikely to have any adverse impact on these countries’ contributions towards the UN flash appeal, which now totals $482 million.

“This is a complicated issue, which we’ve had some time getting our heads around,” he said, adding that OCHA, which he heads, was not aware of the extent of the loss when he presented the revised appeal.

“If we had known it at that time, maybe it would have been better to include it in the appeal,” he said in response to a question.

“Obviously we would like to have a situation where there was no exchange loss. The ideal situation would be if we could pay with our dollars and get the market rate back in kyat—and that is what we’re asking for,” he said.

“Whether that can be achieved is another question, especially since any organization working in a country has to operate according to the rules of the host government. Those rules have been in place for a long time, but the problem is growing because the spread has widened so much,” he observed.

“Perhaps we were a bit slow to recognize—because the spread suddenly widened in June—how big a problem this was going to become for us. We have recognized it and are taking it up with the Government,” Holmes said.

Giving his impression of the progress of the humanitarian relief operations in the Irrawaddy delta, Holmes expressed a sense of satisfaction and said he appreciated the steps taken by the Burmese military junta in this regard.

“We’re in a much better position than we were just a couple of months ago,” Holmes said.

Citing major efforts to rebuild homes, repair schools and get health clinics up and running, Holmes said there has been a lot of progress in the last two months. Farming and other agricultural activities were also picking up, he said.

“A degree of normality” is beginning to return in some areas around the delta region, with many schools functioning and increased traffic on major waterways, he observed.

At the same time, Holmes asserted that challenges remain with regard to the humanitarian relief work in the Irrawaddy delta. “There is no room for any kind of complacency. There is still a lot to do to make this operation a lasting success and to reach all people with what they need for a sustained period,” he said.

The main challenge for the next few months, Holmes said, is to ensure a more systematic pipeline of aid, both food and non-food items. It is important to reach out to those in the most remote areas who were difficult to reach because of poor infrastructure.

“Systematic aid delivery is needed for at least six to nine months,” he said.

Among other challenges for the relief operation is the drop in the number of World Food Programme helicopters from ten to five.

Holmes hoped that some of these five could be kept flying for at least three or four months. This is to ensure that the most remote areas could be reached by aid workers delivering goods and supplies, he said.

——————-

UN loses $10m aid in Burma exchange rate scam.
By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent, The Independent of London,
Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The UN has admitted losing about $10m ( £5m) to the Burmese regime while delivering emergency aid to the country in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis because of a distorted official exchange rate.

The UN’s senior humanitarian aid official said it had suffered the “significant” loss because the junta enforced an artificial exchange rate that was at least 15 per cent lower than the genuine rate. It has been alleged that the UN had been aware of the loss for weeks and had accepted it as the price of “doing business” with the regime.

“We were arguably a bit slow to recognise… how serious a problem this has become for us,” John Holmes, the under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, told reporters in New York. “It’s not acceptable.”

The losses came about because of the system whereby, when providing aid, the UN uses foreign exchange certificates with a nominal value of $1 each that are then exchanged for the local currency, the kyat, at a rate set by Burma’s military government. The market rate for kyats is close to 1,100 per dollar, but the UN exchange rate is now about 880. As a result, the Burmese regime has been making a healthy profit even as the UN provides emergency support.

Mr Holmes said he did not know where the money was going or who was directly benefiting. The Inner City Press blog that first posted the allegations of the losses said some humanitarians believed that allowing the government of General Than Shwe to make a profit was a price worth paying. It also said officials have been aware of the losses since early June.

This month, the UN issued an appeal for more than $300m in extra aid for the country.

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We do not say that the loss of funds caused by the fact that the humanitarian activity happens within a country with a very unsavory regime, but we do say that in the private enterprise world a manager with performance like this would be sacked – and this performance is not from just now, and not only by Sir Holmes, but just the same from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon under whose watch this goes on, and under the Administrator of the UNDP Kemal Dervis, under whom similar activities went on in other similar unsavory regimes the like of North Korea. As said, much more on this can be found on www.InnerCityPress.com and we posted also a general article about this lack of oversight on the part of the UN:

“Now it is Accepted Officially At the UN, Something www. SustainabiliTank.info Argued Three Years Ago – The UN Funds The World’s Worst in a Neat Way – Call It Exchange Rates. We Had Brought This Up As A Way UNDP Did Fund The North Korean Atom Bomb, Now UNSG Holmes Recognized As Correct The ICP Statement That The UN Funds The Myanmar Government.”
Tuesday, July 29th, 2008.

As we realize that it will be hard to come by accountability at the UN, the purpose of our posting this is to ask if the UK government is ready to assume oversight for the funds for which it caries responsibility to UK taxpayers?

Further, we see that also USAID/OFDA, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), or the US and Swiss taxpayers, are funding these operations also. So what do the US and Swiss Administrations say of the transfer of funds to the Burmese junta rather then the full use of those funds for the humanitarian work? Also, even when NGOs or an oil company like Chevron, spend money on a humanitarian operation, these funds are mostly tax-deductible, so again the regular Joe who pays the taxes, it is his money, that was mismanaged under UN auspices.

The Honest Question is – Can This UN Management Be Trusted To Handle Money or Anything Else?

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