Myanmar: Cyclone Nargis - Six months on

News and Press Release
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Six months ago Cyclone Nargis struck Burma, taking the lives of over 140,000 people and injuring around 20,000. In total, the homes, communities and livelihoods of around 2.4 million people were affected, with the damage caused to infrastructure, commerce and agriculture estimated at $4 billion.

Half a year on, it is important for us to reflect on the humanitarian response, from the UK and the international community, to the worst natural disaster in Burma's history. It is also a time to consider the challenges that lie ahead for Burma's people.

Delivering essential aid

To date, the UK Government has committed =A345 million to the response - the largest contribution of any single donor - providing help to over 1 million people.

When the cyclone hit, UK assistance was quick on the ground. With a dedicated humanitarian team in DFID's Rangoon office keeping a close eye on the situation, the first month of the response saw over 20 chartered flights arrive in the country, loaded with tarpaulins, blankets and other non-food items. These were distributed by international humanitarian agencies who were already carrying out relief operations in affected areas.

DFID was also able to make much-needed early funding commitments, supporting international bodies like the Federation of the Red Cross, a number of UN agencies, and non-governmental organisations including Save the Children and Merlin. The emergency relief efforts of these organisations bolstered the help being provided on the ground by local civil society and religious groups, as well as by private individuals.

That this essential aid got through to those in need is in itself remarkable. Burma's absolutist military regime has in the past stood in the way of international efforts to alleviate poverty in the country, making Burma one of the least-aided poor countries in the world. However, thanks to the determination of donors, help was able to reach the many Burmese affected by the disaster.

DFID Minister Mike Foster:

"Last May the international community faced extremely difficult circumstances getting aid to the victims of Cyclone Nargis, but fortunately ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the UN were successful in getting the regime to open up to international aid. I am extremely proud that, with the dedication and determination of DFID staff and their Burmese and international partners, we have provided assistance to over a million people."

Read more about the work that DFID is supporting in the region - including one project that provides mobile clinics to remote areas and another that is supplying local people with the technology to acquire safe drinking water.

Continuing to help

One of the other significant ways in which DFID has helped people to start rebuilding their livelihoods has been through the provision of agricultural materials. Over 50,000 households received seeds, tools and fertilizer, allowing them to begin planting for the future.

But seasonal challenges could still present a problem. The full impact of a poor harvest in November has yet to be seen, and drinking water could be in short supply following the post-cyclone dry season.

It remains a priority of DFID's in Burma to see that these and other shocks do not get in the way of the country's continued recovery.

As Mike Foster says:

"Conditions in the Irrawaddy Delta are now vastly improved. However, communities are still grappling with the devastating impact of Cyclone Nargis and much remains to be done to assist people in rebuilding their lives and getting them back on their feet. We are continuing to work with our humanitarian partners in ensuring that already highly vulnerable people can access the help that they need."