Myanmar: Kyaw Sein: "I don't know how I will survive"

MHAWBI , 30 October 2008 (IRIN) - Of the 2.4 million people affected by Cyclone Nargis, about 700,000 are over 55, according to HelpAge International. And while most live with their families, many - like 86-year-old Kyaw Sein - do not.

Kyaw Sein spoke to IRIN from his makeshift hut along a stream in the badly affected Ayeyarwady Delta.

"When the storm hit our house, both my wife and I were swept away. I got tangled in some trees, but my wife drowned over there by the stream.

"In the beginning, I thought I was lucky, but now I don't. Now I see only hardship and desperation.

"Most of the time, I feel lonely and isolated as my wife is no more. She was everything to me. We used to live in a comfortable home together, but now I have no home, nor anyone to love me.

"I built this hut myself, and intentionally positioned it here as this is where my wife drowned. In a strange way, this allows me to be near her even in death.

"Although I have a son in the village, his family have their own hardship and I don't feel welcome there. That's why I live here alone.

"Sometimes I go to the monastery, but most of the time I stay in my hut, recalling the events of that date over and over again in my mind, wondering if there was anything I could do differently.

"At night while I sleep, I'm haunted by the images of that day - of dead people and dead animals in the water that rushed around me.

"At the moment, I don't need to worry too much about food thanks to the [humanitarian] agencies, but wonder how long it will last. I receive rice, pulses, oil and salt and give them to my grandchildren to cook for me.

"For drinking water, I gather rain water on the plastic sheeting I use for my roof.

"I received a mosquito net from UNICEF [UN Children's Fund], which protects me from malaria.

"Right now, aside from an occasional cold, I'm in pretty good health, but this hut will not protect me from the cold weather now upon us.

"The future looks dark. Death is a certainty for us all, but I don't know how I will survive the coming months.

"Now that the rainy season is over, the authorities say I need to rebuild my hut where my house was - away from the road. But that's impossible. I have neither any money nor any material to rebuild my home.

"But more importantly, being by the road is my only way of ensuring that I am seen and receive the help I need. I worry that if I move, I will be forgotten."