A year after Myanmar’s worst ever cyclone debt-ridden survivors need substantial aid package

$690 million needed to rebuild devastated Delta region.

Hundreds of thousands of people who survived Myanmar's worst-ever cyclone are facing the prospect of being trapped in debt with little prospect of securing further credit or loans and need urgent help from the international community, international aid agency Oxfam said today.

 “One of the many impacts of Cyclone Nargis was that it destroyed almost an entire harvest that farmers and fishermen had already borrowed against before the cyclone hit,” Oxfam Myanmar Country Director Claire Light said.

 “That has meant many families defaulted on those loans, and haven’t been able to access enough credit ever since to get back on their feet.

 “Urgent international assistance is needed before June so that farming and fishing families can kick-start their upcoming harvest, repay their loans, and avoid losing any more to this devastating cyclone and its aftermath,” Ms. Light said.

Cyclone Nargis, which hit Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Delta and Yangon Division on May 2 – 3, 2008, as well as killing 140,000 people and destroying homes and schools, demolished farmland, cattle, fishing ponds and equipment leaving the vast majority of survivors who rely on these for an income struggling to make ends meet, Oxfam said today.

A recovery  plan prepared by the Association of South East Nations (ASEAN), the United Nations in Myanmar and the Government of the Union of Myanmar, says that $US 690 million is needed from the international community over the next three years to restore people’s lives back to what they were before the cyclone.  

Of that it states $US 189 million dollars is needed to restore people’s livelihoods, through activities such as generating jobs and supporting agricultural production for fishing and farming communities.

The United Nations Flash Appeal opened soon after the cyclone, will draw to a close only 67 per cent funded, and has a $US 42 million shortfall in the amount requested for agricultural projects. That appeal closes tomorrow (1 May).

Ms. Light said aid agencies do not want to see funding end after the first anniversary of the cyclone, and they have not seen enough pledges from the international community for long-term aid.

“There was a generous response in the wake of the storm that allowed the largest ever relief effort in Myanmar, and because of that almost all cyclone-survivors have been reached with some level of assistance,” Ms. Light said.

“But Cyclone Nargis caused a level of destruction similar to the worst-hit areas of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. The 2.4 million people affected will continue to feel its impact unless aid keeps flowing for the next three years,” Ms. Ireland said.
Oxfam has reached approximately half a million people with aid in the cyclone-affected regions. The aid agency has been directly operational in the country since August 2008, and continues to fund partner organizations that assisted in the immediate relief efforts. Prior to Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar received among the lowest levels of aid per capita in the world.

Notes to editors

Overview of Oxfam’s Cyclone Response in Myanmar

Where we work:

Oxfam has reached approximately half a million people with aid following Cyclone Nargis.

Oxfam has been directly operational in the country since August 2008, and continues to fund local partner organizations who assisted in the immediate relief efforts.

In the first phase of the response, Oxfam and our partners provided immediate relief assistance in 24 of the most affected townships. Oxfam now works directly in Dedaye and Pyapon townships, and supports recovery efforts in eight cyclone-affected townships through partner organizations.

Oxfam’s response to date:

Oxfam has provided 64,000 households with water-related support. This has included giving people emergency water and reconstructing water infrastructure systems, or providing water storage containers.

Oxfam has given approximately 53,000 households emergency shelter materials to protect them from the elements or assistance to rebuild their homes. 

Oxfam has given approximately 11,000 households fishing or farming support so that they can continue to generate an income.

Oxfam has given approximately 26,000 households food or cash-for-work support to assist in small-scale rehabilitation of infrastructure or to receive vocational training to build their capacity to earn an income. 

Oxfam has supported the rehabilitation of early childhood care and development centers and schools provided school supplies, uniforms, and books. 

Oxfam is providing radios to communities as an early warning radio system that would benefit 45,000 villagers.

Oxfam’s priorities for the next two years:

Oxfam and our partners are now supporting communities on the very long road to recovery.

Oxfam’s direct cyclone response work is a three-year program, and in the next two years, subject to funding, aims to reach 243,000 people in the hardest-hit townships in the Ayeyarwardy delta with livelihoods and water and sanitation support.

We are working to restore agricultural and fisheries production to pre-cyclone levels so that people in the region can generate an income to feed themselves and their families and avoid getting further into debt.

Oxfam is working to reduce long-term public health risks and are safeguarding people from water-borne diseases, by helping communities to restore their water supplies and through distributing pots, buckets and water purification means and building latrines.

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