Myanmar

Myanmar Cyclone: 6 months on

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Six months ago, on 2 May 2008, Cyclone Nargis ripped across the coast of Myanmar bringing misery and devastation to millions of people. The cyclone, the worst to hit Asia in over a decade, killed more than 84,000 people and left more than 53,000 missing.

Liz Hughes, Recovery Manager for the British Red Cross, is based in Myanmar and is leading the recovery efforts of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

She said: "The sheer impact of the devastation means that the recovery operation is enormous. Our cyclone recovery programmes in Myanmar will continue until April 2011, three years after Nargis made landfall, because of the scale and scope of the rebuilding effort."

In the immediate aftermath of the emergency the international community sprang into action. The British Red Cross raised =A31.6 million to support the Myanmar Red Crescent Society which, as a community-based volunteer organisation, was immediately able to begin providing relief. An estimated 1.3 million people in the Ayeyarwady Delta region have received lifesaving support through the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement.

Whilst many of the basic needs have been met, people's livelihoods were severely affected and some now find themselves needing to take out loans. Over the next two and a half years, the focus for the International Federation will be on restoring livelihoods and the ability of those affected to generate much-needed income.

Hughes continued: "As efforts shift from relief to recovery this assistance will include psychosocial support programmes to ensure the emotional recovery of those affected and programmes to create income for families whose livelihoods have been destroyed. "

The impact on livelihoods can be seen in Kan Thar Yar, a village some 50 kilometres from the Andaman coast, deep inside the Labutta township and one of the regions hardest hit by the cyclone.

"Four people lost their lives in this village," said Ba Shwa, a 33-year-old farmer. "More than half the houses were destroyed or damaged, and 21 fishing boats were lost." He added that most of their buffaloes drowned in the floods and the community will now need help to rebuild their homes and their livelihoods.

For the time being, 39 families are crowded together in the few houses that remain standing. To ensure the children have their daily milk, they rent buffaloes from other villages. These rents will, hopefully, be paid for with sacks of rice after the winter harvest in November. The farmers re-planted their devastated paddy fields in July, just in time for the rainy season. However, the seeds they used were not fit for the high saline content in the soil caused by high sea levels during the cyclone, so the outcome of this harvest is uncertain.

Like the majority of the more than two million people affected by Cyclone Nargis, most families in Kan Thar Yar did not own their own land, but instead cultivated the rice paddies on behalf of landowners. As their livelihood also depends on fishing, they have been doubly penalized with the loss of their boats.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The Disasters Emergency Committee raised over =A318 million for the Myanmar Cyclone Appeal. Money from this appeal has gone towards supporting the work of the British Red Cross.

Official government sources continue to report:
Death toll: 84,500 people and 53,800 people missing
Affected: 2.4 million people, according to United Nations

International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent activity:
- An estimated 1.3 million people in the Ayeyarwady Delta region have received lifesaving support through the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement

- More than 2,500 metric tons of relief were received by air and 100 metric tons by ship.
- Six water treatment units are in operation, producing a total of 80,000 litres of safe drinking water almost 27,000 people every day.
- Emergency shelter has been provided to over 80,000 households. The shelter items include tarpaulins, ropes, hand saws, roofing nails, shovels, hoes, machetes, tin snips, nails, tie wires, claw hammers and woven sacks.
- Tens of thousands of volunteers based in communities impacted by Cyclone Nargis and from throughout Myanmar have participated in relief efforts.

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.

We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.

For further information please contact

Henry Makiwa, telephone: 0044(0)207 877 7479, email: HMakiwa@redcross.org.uk, 07659 145 095 (out of hours)