Myanmar

Myanmar: Preventing repeat of cyclone disaster is the number one priority, says ActionAid

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News peg: 2-3 November - six month anniversary of MyanmarCyclone Nargis - the worst natural disaster in the country's history.

Now is the time to prevent this kind of disaster having such a terrible impact ever again, warns the development agency ActionAid, six months on from the devastating Myanmarcyclone, which affected some 2.4 million people.

"We know disaster prevention work saves lives and it's vital we help people in Myanmarto prepare for and cope with disasters," said Roger Yates, Head of Emergencies at ActionAid.

"Strengthening existing buildings and raising awareness about how people can make themselves safer are key for the future."

ActionAid Myanmar is currently providing training on disaster prevention work to the Ministry of Social Welfare and the agency is urging donors to increase support for this as well as long term rehabilitation work. Nearly half of the $482 million appeal launched by the UN in July remains unfunded.

Villagers in the rice growing Ayeyarwady Delta showed incredible resilience but six months on, they say it will be five or six years before their lives are back to normal - so much has been destroyed - including people's confidence.

To date, ActionAid has provided emergency relief to over 120,000 people in more than 400 villages. So far, the agency has helped set up temporary shelters, mobile health clinics, planted more than 12,000 acres of paddy and repaired tillers as well as established cash for work schemes to provide clean water and repair buildings.

In addition, the agency is training volunteers in psychosocial skills, reaching out to vulnerable women and children left traumatised by the disaster. The rehabilitation programme will continue until 2010.

Cyclone Nargis left around 140,000 people dead or missing and displaced 800,000 people. UN humanitarian chief John Holmes described the cyclone as the worst natural disaster in the recorded history of Myanmar.

ActionAid is an international anti-poverty agency working in over 40 countries taking sides with poor people to end poverty and injustice together

For further information, contact: Sarah Gillamon + 44 7738 88401