accessibility & help

Myanmar Cyclone Nargis: one year on enormous challenges to recovery remain

Thursday 30 April 2009
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Henry Makiwa, telephone: 0044(0)2078777479, email:, Out of office hours pager: 07659 145095

One year after Cyclone Nargis devastated the Ayeyarwaddy Delta in Myanmar, more than one million people have received support from the British Red Cross and other partner agencies, but enormous challenges remain in the country’s recovery efforts.

Following the devastating cyclone, which killed more than 84 thousand people and left over 53,000 missing on 2 and 3 May 2008, the British Red Cross has been providing shelter to over 8, 000 households, as well as implementing a wide variety of “cash-for-work” programmes to 6,000 households. These projects are chosen in cooperation with the communities and enable people to earn income while restoring destroyed roads, bridges and jetties.

“One year on from the cyclone, thanks to the support of British donors, a great deal has been achieved.  At the same time we know from experience that as with any disaster on this scale, it takes time for survivors to rebuild their lives,” says Liz Hughes, the Recovery Manager for the British Red Cross.

“Shelter remains the major priority” she continued “An estimated 100,000 families of those whose homes were destroyed, still live under tarpaulins. Tens of thousands more live in temporary, sub-standard shelters, which will not be able to withstand another storm.”

At least 30, 000 people are on course to benefit from income-generating initiatives under the livelihoods programme. Between November 2008 and April 2009 alone, the project’s “cash-for-work” scheme assisted over 6, 000 people with wage-generating employment opportunities in 11 townships. Over a third of beneficiaries working on the projects are women whose primary source of income prior to the cyclone disaster involved vending dried fish, and reselling market goods in villages.

It is projected that, a staggering 87% of unmarried women and 100% of married women  lost their main source of income and are therefore reliant on income generating projects.

Liz said: “Our “cash-for-work” projects have enabled the community to diversify their workforce, with more inclusion of women and disabled persons to also become part of the workforce. We have seen quiet a marked keenness in their input on projects and participation in decision-making processes. This will help in the future of their income generating initiatives and livelihood stability as the construction of canals, roads and bridges will also improve their access to economic markets.”

Ein Chan, from Bine Daunt Chaung village tract, lost her husband and house when the cyclone hit Labutta Township. As one of the 240 people to benefit from the “cash-for-work” scheme repairing roads in her village, she has managed to earn enough income to rebuild her house.

The Cyclone Nargis emergency appeal, launched on 6 May 2008, has raised £ 54 million including cash, in-kind donations and pledges. Through end of February, expenditures totalled nearly £ 26 million.  

The British Red Cross, working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Myanmar Red Cross Society have been delivering reconstruction programmes which are expected to continue through April 2011. Communities in the Ayeyarwaddy Delta will also benefit from the building of 12 health centres and almost 100 schools, some of which will function as evacuation centres in future disasters.


For pictures, case studies and interviews please contact Henry Makiwa on 0207 877 7039.

Notes to editors

The British Red Cross raised £1.8 million, to support the Myanmar Red Crescent Society in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent activity:

  • From May to November 2008, relief distributions reached over 280,000 households in the 13 targeted townships. The distributions, which included mosquito nets, shelter kits, blankets, jerry cans and hygiene kits, covered over 3,200 villages across 770 village tracts in the delta area.
  • A total of 39,580 households received safe drinking water everyday for water treatment units in five locations. This is an increase from 7,133 households reached in the emergency phase due to current dry season needs.
  • Construction or rebuilding of low-cost storm-resistant individual homes for 8,000 vulnerable households in 11 townships has begun. The targeted households are those who have not yet recovered from Nargis and are living in sub-standard shelter or are still living with host families.
  • So far, 6,586 beneficiaries in 11 townships have benefited from 81 Cash-for-Work projects conducted from November 2008 to April 2009. The various projects include repairs to village roads, river embankments, jetties, bridges, irrigation canals, and sluice gates, as well as agricultural land restoration and environment cleaning. A significant proportion of beneficiaries comprised landless casual workers, female-headed households and those older than 55 years.

Official sources report that:
Death toll: 84,500 people and 53,800 people missing
Affected: 2.4 million people, according to United Nations

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies. We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives. In the event that we raise more money than can be reasonably and efficiently spent, any surplus funds will be used to help us prepare for and respond to other humanitarian disasters either overseas or here in the UK. For more information, visit