accessibility & help

Enormous challenges to recovery remain in Myanmar

1  May 2009

Father holds child in lap while talking to Red Cross workerMRCSOne year after Cyclone Nargis devastated the Ayeyarwaddy Delta in Myanmar, more than one million people have received support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

However, enormous challenges remain in restoring livelihoods and rebuilding communities.“One of our most important roles is that of helping disaster-affected populations secure their own future wellbeing,” says Bernd Schell, spokesperson for the Federation in Yangon. “Our livelihoods and emotional recovery programmes aim to engage the affected communities to fully participate in rebuilding their lives.”

The Federation and Myanmar Red Cross Society are providing shelter to thousands of families, as well as implementing a wide variety of cash-for-work programmes, where beneficiaries earn income while restoring destroyed roads, bridges and jetties.

Red Cross support

“Many survivors have had little opportunity to earn an income since the cyclone, and they struggle with debts. The cash-for-work programme is supplementary until farmers, fishermen and casual workers can get back to making a living,” Schell continued.

“Shelter is also a major priority. It is estimated that 20 per cent (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.”

Although the Federation has made progress in restoring water sources and water catchment systems, it estimates only 50 per cent have been repaired. This means many survivors will face water shortages during the next dry season.

Tremendous recovery effort

Cyclone Nargis brought misery and devastation to millions of people when it struck on 2 May 2008. The British Red Cross launched an appeal which raised £1.6 million to support the Federation’s response.

Jola Mizniak, British Red Cross relief operations officer, said: “We continue to support the work in providing shelters and regenerating livelihoods. The latter has been crucial in the early stages of recovery as it means people are able to be mobile once again, have access to markets, and independence to start rebuilding their lives.

“Everyone has worked extremely hard to ensure the roads, bridges, jetties and general infrastructure were rebuilt and operational, embankments were protected and canals dredged, before the onset of the monsoon rains, which begin in May. These would normally make many routes impassable and cut off villages for several months. It has been a tremendous effort, with 85 projects assisting 2,800 people in 165 villages, which in itself has established the foundations of the longer-term recovery program.”

Practical and emotional support

In addition to livelihoods, shelter and water supply projects, the Myanmar Red Cross Society and the Federation are providing psychosocial support, helping survivors deal with their stress and trauma. Up to 600 villages have been reached so far.

The Federation’s emergency appeal raised £41 million and £20 million had been spent on relief and recovery by the end of February 2009. Reconstruction efforts and integrated community-based programmes are expected to continue until April 2011.

More about recovery in Myanmar