Date Published: 1 May 2009

One year after cyclone, Myanmar on hard road to recovery

UNICEF is concerned that aid and attention is waning for children and women still affected by the cyclone in Myanmar (Burma) a year ago today.

Communities devastated by Cyclone Nargis have faced formidable challenges during the year of recovery and rebuilding but the road to recovery was also marked by courage, resilience and relentless individual and collective enterprise in rebuilding life and livelihoods and in rekindling hope.

UNICEF has been active on the ground every day of the past year focusing on the recovery efforts,” said Ramesh Shrestha, UNICEF Representative in Myanmar. “The challenge facing the survivors of Cyclone Nargis now is that aid flow and attention has waned in the recovery phase. Unless the most crucial needs in reviving livelihoods are addressed – communities will need to continue relying on humanitarian support and sustaining the gains of the past year will be difficult.”

In education, UNICEF supplied learning materials and trained teachers and repaired and rebuilt schools to get children back into the classroom as quickly as possible. Nine out of the 37 child-friendly schools are now ready for the new school year in June 2009.

UNICEF also worked closely with partners in delivering critical health, nutrition and water and sanitation programmes, ensuring the prevention of major disease outbreaks and deterioration in the malnutrition situation.

Emergency response has also had far-reaching implications for child protection programming. Family tracing and reunification has been a priority for UNICEF and so far hundreds of children have been reunited with their families or are now in other long term care arrangements.

Cyclone Nargis ravaged through Myanmar on 2-3 May 2008, leaving 140,000 people dead, 2.4 million severely affected and 800,000 displaced. Over 50 per cent of schools and nearly 75 per cent health facilities in the affected areas were destroyed or badly damaged. Loss of homes, forestry, assets and livelihoods were widespread. In July 2008, the total value of damages and losses was estimated at close to US$2 billion.

Health and nutrition

UNICEF worked with the government and NGO partners to address the health needs of nearly 300,000 women and children. This resulted in 90 per cent coverage of measles vaccination for children and 80 per cent coverage of routine immunisation in all affected townships. Furthermore, 80 per cent of affected children and pregnant/lactating women now have access to emergency, preventive and curative services for maternal, neonatal and child health, including HIV.

By conducting rapid nutrition assessments right from the outset of the disaster with the National Nutrition Centre, children and lactating women of all 36 affected townships were safeguarded against micronutrient deficiencies. Half of the children diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition were given therapeutic food.

Water, sanitation and hygiene

UNICEF provided 250,000 affected people with three litres a day of safe drinking water and 10 litres a day of clean water for bathing, cooking and cleaning in ten townships. Around 20,000 families, 500 schools and temporary settlements have access to sanitary latrines and clean environments.

UNICEF helped supply large number of jerry cans, plastic buckets and containers to households as well as schools and health facilities. We helped place eight water treatment plants in the Delta with the capacity to produce from 4,000 to 15,000 litres of safe water per hour.

Early recovery efforts included rehabilitation of 530 ponds and 246 dug wells. We recently helped produce 50,000 glazed earthen jars each with a capacity to store 60 gallons. Families receiving one or two of these are able to meet their water needs for two months.


Nine out of the 37 child-friendly schools are ready for classes in the new school year, which starts in June 2009. The improved school structure supports a favourable learning environment with adequate water and sanitation facilities and provisions for disabled children.

UNICEF was a key actor in assisting children returning to school following the disaster and in some cases to improved schools. We supported more than 60 per cent of the affected schools, benefiting approximately 410,000 primary school children, along with 343 Early Child Development centres reaching 10,000 children under five.

Child protection

As of April 2009, family tracing and reunification efforts have led to 575 children being reunified with either their parents or extended families and 1,396 separated and unaccompanied children have been registered. The remaining children will be brought under long-term caring arrangements by June.

In addition, 135 community-run Child-Friendly Spaces were set up to provide psychosocial care and support for 29,300 children, along with recreational and learning activities.


Source: UNICEF Main Website.
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