Five years after tsunami, Myanmar battles repeat disasters

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Repeat disasters

By Sandar Linn

NGAPUTAW TOWNSHIP, Myanmar, 21 December 2009 - In spite of the battle for life and livelihood since the tsunami hit in 2004, daily life continues in remote Phone Daw Pyae in Ngaputaw Township.

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The impact left by the tsunami on Myanmar was less severe compared to some other neighbouring countries. Nevertheless, Ngaputaw Township - along with Rakhine State parts of the Irrawaddy Division and Tanintharyi Division- was hit hard.

Life in the communities was wrecked and major disruptions in livelihood occurred with lost boats and destroyed fishing nets.

Restoring livelihoods

UNICEF, along with local and international partners, supported a full range of activities to restore livelihood and transform young lives affected by the tsunami.

Communities received assistance in getting back on their feet with new homes for affected people, a new school and a new rural health centre. Essential drugs and insecticide treated bed nets were also supplied.

Unfortunately, some of the communities were battered by repeat and severe natural disasters that jeopardized these restoration efforts.

"When one disaster after another took away my loved ones and the basic essentials that we need to live on, such as a home, a small boat, a fishing net - life became infinitely harder," said Hnin Hnin Ei, 30, a single parent and a former resident of Phone Daw Pyae village.

The surviving families of the village now live in Government-funded new housing, built much farther away from the coast and on higher ground.

Repeat disasters

Disaster response after the tsunami opened the door for humanitarian agencies to reach the remote fishing communities who are exposed to the frequent wrath of nature.

As tsunami interventions were phased out, massive emergency relief and recovery efforts had to be mounted to get through the devastations caused by Cyclone Nargis, the worst natural disaster that the country has faced in its recent history.

"Everybody in the community had to work extraordinarily hard and we were there to support after the disasters," said UNICEF Field Officer for Ayeyarwaddy Division Daw Khin Khin Pyone. "However, the way to recovery has been slow and hampered - the chain of disasters broke the backbone of the community."