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How we helped after the Myanmar cyclone 2008

Red Cross volunteers unload relief from a boat and hand it to waiting families in Myanmar© InfoThe International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, one of just a few organisations with operations in Myanmar, was at the forefront of the relief response.

Distributing emergency relief

Myanmar Red Cross Society volunteers started working immediately after the cyclone struck, assessing the situation in the worst-affected areas and providing life-saving support.

More than 155 Red Cross relief flights landed in Yangon, carrying shelter kits, jerry cans, tarpaulins, kitchen sets, mosquito nets and hygiene parcels.

Relief items were distributed to more than 260,000 households affected by the cyclone in Yangon and the Ayeyarwady delta.

Providing shelter and income

Tens of thousands of volunteers played a major role in the response and emergency shelter was provided to over 80,000 households.

To restore and improve the livelihoods of households affected by the cyclone, the Red Cross launched a cash-for-work programme whereby thousands of people earned income by participating in community projects.

Over a third of the people on the programme were women. The majority of both married and unmarried women lost their primary source of income, which involved drying fish, due to the cyclone. Income-generating projects enabled the community to diversify the workforce.

The programme included projects that reduced the risk of future flooding disasters. Jetties, roads, bridges and paths were raised and drainage channels dredged.

Recovery programme

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ recovery programme supported 100,000 households across 13 townships over three years.

The Federation provided 12,404 families with new homes, and built 25 schools and 19 health centres. It also repaired many community buildings and set up posts from which first aid and other skills can be taught. Over 4,000 people from 136 villages were trained on how to reduce the risks if disaster does strike. Trees were planted in 109 villages to protect the environment.

As well as helping more than 19,000 people and their families regain or strengthen their ability to earn a living, the Federation gave 7,444 people ‘cash-for-work’ opportunities. It provided over 160,000 people with basic health care and trained 247 Red Cross volunteers and 4,358 community volunteers in community-based health and first aid. More than 127,400 schoolchildren were shown how to practise good hygiene.

Building new ponds and wells, and cleaning out the old ones, gave many communities drinkable water. The construction of wells and rainwater tanks in schools also provided 45,768 children with access to clean water. Meanwhile, new latrines helped around 12,000 schoolchildren and nearly 47,000 families practise better hygiene.

The British Red Cross made a contribution from our Disaster Fund in response to this crisis.


On 2nd May, 2008, Cyclone Nargis killed more than 84,000 people. Six months on, the recovery effort continues.

Liz Hughes, operations manager, IFRC: We're just coming to the end of the relief stage of the operation, which means we're coming to the end of giving out essential non-food items – such as tarpaulins and shelter protection - to people and now what we're moving into is planning for the longer term: the recovery operation. That’s how we get people back on their feet with their livelihoods

Local villager: I lost everything: my house, my furniture and my boat. I need something to make a living like a boat and a fishing net

Local villager: I don't want my grandson to die, he gives us our only hope. I'm just hoping that my son can find some work.

Doctor Aung Kyaw Htut, chief coordinator, Myanmar Red Cross: Most of the people in the delta are farmers and in the fishing business so they need boats, nets and the seeds. Everything was lost in the cyclone, so they need the livelihoods programme.

Local villager: If I had a boat and nets, I'd drop the nets in the river and catch fish and prawns to eat to sell.

Liz Hughes, operations manager, IFRC: And now what we're moving into are the communities, spending four days talking to lots of people about what the issues are, about what has happened until now, and about what has been destroyed as a result of the cyclone and needs to be rebuilt. And our job then will be to work with the community to put together a plan and to help them put those things back in place.