On 2 May 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck southern Burma (Myanmar) devastating the Irrawaddy Delta region. The UN reported over 1.5 million people were affected. The toll is believed to be over 100,000 people. CWS isupported local organisation in Burma through ACT International. They were able to distribute water purification tablets, blankets and medicines to people in the worst-hit areas from day one of the disaster and have provided ongoing relief and rebuilding assistance.
29/12/08: Dry season planting ensures ongoing recovery
December and January is the time for dry season planting in the disaster-affected area of the Irrawaddy Delta. It gives farmers the opportunity to increase their independence and earn much needed income. CWS partners have assisted communities to rebuild their agricultural livelihoods. Over 21,600 farming households have received 3800 metric tons of paddy seeds, 274 power tillers, 10,200 gallons of diesel fuel and US $212,600 in cash grants.
It is crucial for them and the food security of Burma that the dry season harvest is successful. One father of four lost all his seeds, tools, fertilisers and capital in the cyclone. Without help, his field would have been left unused. Instead he is ready to harvest his monsoon season crop of rice and will use rice seeds, fertilizers and a power tiller provided by CWS partners to plant for the dry season. “I have never used this type of rice before,” he says. “I was suspicious of the suitability of the seed in our land. On the contrary, it seems to yield more than normal type which I usually used.”
CWS partners have also provided:
- 216,200 land labourers with 10,810 metric tons of rice
- 1,057 school kits and 244 toy kits to children
- 145 boats, 158 fishing nets and 2000 fishing traps to assist 143 vulnerable fisher folk households
- food for 16,222 individuals
and have distributed UN World Food Programme food to 28,200 individuals, including 255 metric tons of rice, 64 metric tons of pulses/dried beans, 7 metric tons of oil, 5 metric tons of salt, and 3 metric tons of blended food for pregnant/lactating mothers and under five children
A day in the life of a farmerfrom Church World Service Asia Pacific
A farmer’s day in the paddy field usually starts at around 5am. After five to six hours work a son or daughter will bring their lunch. A simple lunch break takes place in a small hut in the middle of the paddy field. Then the work continues for as long as the farmers can bear the heat. They usually return home about 5pm.
Farming work involves establishing seedbeds, ploughing, harrowing, throwing germinated paddy seeds or transplanting the paddy seedlings into the field. From time to time, they throw fertilizers to boost the growth of their paddy. Last but not least, is the painstaking work of constant watch around the field to keep both pests and diseases away to ensure a successful harvest.
The most productive age of a farmer is 20 to 50 years. Once over 50, a son or son-in-law takes over their work and responsibilities.
5/11/08: 6 months on“We are so grateful for your help - families are very hungry and we don’t have enough to eat. In my whole life, we’ve never been in such bad shape with no work in sight and empty fields, everything destroyed with no money to start again. Your assistance with rice and cash transfers at this hour is doing more good than you can imagine - your assistance is helping keeping the peace and harmony among us as a village. When hungry people get desperate, we have to deal with more theft, tension among us, with hungry children crying for food. Your food and rice has helped to ease this desperation and tension in our villages.”
These moving words are from a village chief in the Irrawady Delta, Burma. The region was devastated by Cyclone Nargis in May. The huge loss of life, housing, food and agricultural production was worsened by the country’s military regime hampering international aid efforts. CWS partners, however, were already working in the country and were able to help from day one.
They assisted 572 villages in the first 45 days. 73,124 tarpaulins were distributed to families for emergency shelters and 4,249 water baskets were installed. 55,912 farm households received assistance in terms of seeds, fertilizers, tillers and diesel including the provision of 740 power tillers. This programme has helped restart agriculture in an area where over 20% of cultivation was destroyed. To date 1,197 villages have now received help to survive, replant, rebuild and recover in one programme alone.
People are grateful for the new start they have enjoyed but the affects of the Cyclone will be with them for a long time. CWS partners report everyone has become more sensitive to weather updates on news reports.
11/6/08: Burma Cyclone Relief Efforts
CWS is supporting ACT International relief efforts in Burma. By June 11 response highlights included:
- More than 171,600 people provided with emergency relief including food, non-food items and tarpaulins
- More than 2,815 water baskets distributed to communities (each water basket has the capacity to support 250 persons with clean water)
- 21 centres established for those who lost their homes with an estimated 60,000 people already assisted
- Food distribution to 60,000 people in partnership with the UN World Food Programme (WFP)
- Food management committees established in 18 villages
- One local partner has managed to access more than 66,681 people in very hard to reach villages in the Irrawaddy Delta region with distributions of food, non-food and temporary shelter items
- Health training of trainers for 600 partner staff and volunteers
28/5/08: Aid getting through
“People want to get back on their feet and they want to plant seeds for the second harvest,” says an ACT member representative of communities impacted by Cyclone Ngaris.
Through already established networks of community-based organisations, CWS partners through ACT International were able to provide aid in the days immediately following the cyclone. Local
organisations are mobilising hundreds of volunteers and are procuring relief goods locally. Over 100,000 people have already been assisted.
“The effects of the destruction are seen almost everywhere…But what is striking is the coping mechanisms of the Burmesepeople,” explains an ACT member representative.
Community-basedorganisations are sending teams of local doctors, nurses and trauma counsellors to visit the shelters housing cyclone-affected families.“There are fantastic human resources inside Burma and they arebeing mobilised,” says the representative. ACT Internaternational members plan to provide safe water to communities through the rehabilitation of 5,000 water points. Other planned assistance includes emergency shelter for up to 340,000 people along with at least 10 days of food aid for up to 68,000 people. Members are also planning distribution of non-food items for up to 112,000 people.