Myanmar - Surviving the Storm: Self-protection and survival in the Delta

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By Ashley South, Susanne Kempel, Malin Perhult and Nils Carstensen

This study explores the perceptions and realities of people living in parts of the Irrawaddy Delta affected by Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar on the night of 2 May 2008.

In responding to and recovering from Cyclone Nargis, affected communities experienced three ‘phases’ of assistance:

  • First and foremost in importance were the self-protection activities of affected people themselves – the ways in which individuals, families and communities gathered together to help each other, and protect the most vulnerable.
  • The next phase of assistance came from within Myanmar itself – ordinary citizens, including businesspeople who collected donations and purchased supplies to send to affected areas, as well as more formally organised faith-based and secular CBOs and local NGOs. In some instances, Myanmar armed forces were also among the first to provide limited assistance, particularly in the most remote areas and where troops had been deployed for security reasons.
  • With some important exceptions, only a few international agencies were present on the ground in the most remote areas in a major way until around one month after the natural disaster. In part at least, this was due to restrictions on access on the part of the government.