Myanmar Cyclone Survivors Struggle to Rebuild Lives

by VR Sreeraman on  December 26, 2008 at 11:23 AM Lifestyle News
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With tents still serving as homes and schools seven months after Cyclone Nargis lashed Myanmar, survivors say they are struggling to rebuild their lives as international aid trickles in.
 Myanmar Cyclone Survivors Struggle to Rebuild Lives
Myanmar Cyclone Survivors Struggle to Rebuild Lives

Fisherman Htein Lin Aung, a father of three, says a new roof is out of the question as he fixes the engine of his boat beneath the tarpaulin covering of his bamboo tent outside the town of Kungyangon.

"We have been in difficulties since Nargis. The weather is also unusual now," said Htein Lin Aung, 37, whose house was one of hundreds of thousands destroyed by the cyclone.

The storm left 138,000 people dead or missing and affected more than 2.5 million, while Myanmar's military junta provoked outrage by initially hampering international aid efforts with red tape.

The military government relented after a visit from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. But rebuilding the southwestern Irrawaddy Delta, which suffered the brunt of the cyclone, is dragging on.

A UN appeal for 477 million dollars is only 64 percent funded, with agriculture and early recovery the least funded sectors with only 25 per cent and 39 per cent of needs met respectively, according to the latest figures.

Htein Lin Aung said his income fell to 100,000 kyats (83 dollars) per month after the cyclone, half what he used to earn, while the cost of living in impoverished Myanmar has risen.

"My business is not good, the weather is also not good. We get enough for our daily expenses but no extra money," he said, adding that "unusual" weather since the cyclone had kept fishermen off the sea.

His neighbours all have tarpaulin roofs as they cannot afford to buy new materials.

Survivors in the area around Kungyangon, which is about three hours drive from the country's former capital Yangon, say donors are not coming any more to provide rehabilitation assistance.

"We cannot stay like this in the rainy season," said housewife Khin Win, 46, as she sewed a fishing net for her husband inside the makeshift tarpaulin cover tent they currently call home.

"We lost everything in the cyclone. The water rose from beneath, it rained from the sky and the wind blew from all directions."

- "Urgent needs still to be met" -

Farmers who survived the cyclone said they faced similar difficulties.

"The weather has been so bad here after the cyclone," said 51-year-old rice farmer Mya Aung. "The paddy seeds that we cultivated decreased in production and also we got low prices after we harvested."

Relief work in the disaster zone is currently being coordinated by a so-called tripartite group gathering the United Nations, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian nations, and Myanmar's military government.

An assessment released this month and endorsed by the group said that while recovery efforts have begun, there are "urgent needs still to be met" for cyclone survivors.

"There are chronic needs in food security and nutrition. We need to increase the support particularly in the western delta and some of the larger towns," UN resident and humanitarian coordinator Bishow Parajuli was quoted as saying.

In a small sign of progress this week, a ceremony was held in Kungyangon to mark a 500,000-dollar donation from a Taiwan-based Buddhist monk, through the Taiwan Red Cross, to build two primary schools and water wells.

"We are still cooperating with the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Myanmar Red Cross," said Taiwan Red Cross secretary general Steven Chen, adding that it was spending another one million dollars on cooperative projects.

But for tearful primary school teacher Lei Lei Oo the road ahead is long.

"The important thing is schools for children to learn. My school children from third grade cannot come to school if the weather is bad," Lei Lei Oo said at the ceremony.

"We are still in many difficulties," she said.

Source: AFP

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