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Myanmar -Disabled people wait for aid

Posted 16/12-08 at 12.06

Disabled people are still waiting for post-cyclone aid.


head and shoulder shot of Zin Min Htet, the chairman of a self help group for people living with disabilities in Myanmar. He has Cerebral Palsy. He is wearing a white shirt has dark short hair and is smiling broadly.Photo: Contributor/IRIN

Zin Min Htet, chairman of a self-help group for disabled people  in Myanmar. He  says more needs to be done to help victims of Cyclone Nargis

YANGON, reported on 12 October 2008 (IRIN) - More than five months after Cyclone Nargis struck southern Myanmar, disabled people are still waiting for assistance. Little of the international relief has filtered down and actually reached the 2.4 million people affected. The help is intended for them.

A great number have lost their homes, property and livelihoods to the storm, which left nearly 140,000 dead or missing.

Others lost their mobility devices - including, crutches, wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs - to flood waters. Many were also badly traumatised and have yet to receive the psycho-social support they need.

"Many people were affected by the cyclone and are now receiving assistance. Unfortunately very little has come to us," said Nay Lin Soe, one of 125 disabled people working together with others in his community to rebuild their lives and homes. They have a simple office within the Eden Centre for Disabled Children in Yangon, the former Burmese capital.

30,000 disabled people in Ayeyarwady Delta

Prior to Nargis, there were an estimated 30,000 disabled people living in Myanmar's badly affected Ayeyarwady Delta, including 5,000 children. In the wake of the disaster, health experts speculate that another 3,000-5,000 disabled people may have been added to their ranks.


Zin Min Htet stands between two other men. Zin Min Htet ears a wwhite shirt and has ablack bag over his shoulder. The man to his left is leaning on to crutches. the man on Zin Min Htet's right is leaning on a crutch he has a bag over the other shoulder.Photo: Contributor/IRIN

In Myanmar, many people have little awareness of the needs of  disabled people.

"It is obvious that people with disabilities have been completely overlooked so far in all general and sectoral assessments," Thomas Calvot, disability and emergency adviser for Handicap International France, who spent three weeks in Myanmar, told IRIN.

The Post Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA), considered by many as the blueprint for the humanitarian response to the area, makes only brief mention of disabled people. It simply says they should be included.

We need to know how many disabled people are affected and how best to assist.

The cyclone-affected area was inaccessible at the best of times, with no concrete paths, houses built on stilts and areas largely surrounded by water. For disabled people things are obviously more difficult, espeically as mobility and independence is affected.

The psychosocial impact of the cyclone on disabled people, documented in the PONJA, is also significant, with some left apart or behind when their families or caretakers fled the storm. Some are experiencing difficulties recovering a sense of inclusion in their communities. Disabled people, who have sensory or mental impairments need good information about what is happening around them.

Calvot would like to see more attention given to such groups: Their participation in interagency coordination mechanisms is nearly nonexistent.



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