Cyclone Nargis, the worst disaster in the country's recorded history, struck Myanmar on the evening of the 2nd of November this year. State figures say 140,000 people were left dead or missing, and 800,000 people were driven from their homes.
World Vision began responding to the disaster within days, focusing on food aid, shelter, and child protection. After rapid assessments were completed, it became apparent that one of the greatest impacts of the disaster was the destruction of livelihoods across the hard-hit Ayeyewaddy Delta and Yangon Division. Some 2 million livestock were lost to the storm, a million acres of rice paddy inundated with salt water, and hundreds of fishing vessels and critical infrastructure wiped out.
During the half-year since the cyclone hit, World Vision has been part of the international relief response to support the 2.4 million who were severely affected. International aid has brought significant gains for its hundreds of thousands of recipients in the country, helping children to recover from their experiences and return to school; helping families to meet their dietary needs; and helping communities to rebuild their livelihoods.
Six months on, real progress can be shown in the lives of those affected. It is clear that this country needs a renewed commitment by the international community to continue to support the survivors of Cyclone Nargis.
Needs remain great for those affected. Less than two-thirds of those surveyed in a recent World Vision assessment of the Delta reported having access to safe, clean drinking water. One third reported reducing the number of meals eaten in a day within the past one month, illustrating the continued food insecurity, still faced by many of those affected. And up to 30 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 were not enrolled in school at the time of the assessment, and of children 12 to 17 more than half were not.
This anniversary is only the first step towards a full recovery for the people of the Delta. Much work is needed in the months and indeed years ahead if the wins shown by the relief response thus far are to be turned into long-term gains for those affected.
"Let us not forget the long-term nature of recovery and preparedness," urged World Vision Myanmar's National Director, James Tumbuan. "And let us not turn our backs on the children of the Delta," continues Tumbuan, "whose hopes for a brighter future have been rekindled over the last six months."
It is imperative that the initial attention and support given to the relief response to Cyclone Nargis continues so that communities can be strengthened, and be given the opportunity to return to pre-cyclone levels of prosperity, and beyond.
For further information or interviews please contact Ashley Jonathan Clements in Myanmar, on: +95 95 035 983 or +95 986 100 79 or visit wvasiapacific.org.