UNICEF continues relief efforts for Myanmar cyclone victims
YANGON, Myanmar, 12 August 2008 – UNICEF Myanmar has pledged to continue relief works until the lives of cyclone-affected families are fully restored.
It has been over three months since the deadly Cyclone Nargis struck south west parts of Myanmar in early May. Relief efforts are now focusing on repairing damage and giving children a sense of normalcy with child-friendly spaces and an emphasis on returning to school.
Cyclone Nargis destroyed or damaged over 4,000 schools and more than 600 health facilities, contaminated 4,000 drinking water wells and separated hundreds of young children from their parents and close relatives.
“It has been three months now since the cyclone hit, and there is still much work to do, such as distributing family kits, organising child friendly spaces, providing safe water supplies and immunising children,” said Ramesh Shrestha, UNICEF Representative in Myanmar. “This operation will last at least one year and depends on continued access to the affected areas.”
Many challenges remain
UNICEF's Director of Emergency Programs, Mr. Louis-Georges Arsenault visited Myanmar in July to report on UNICEF’s emergency operations.
“The recovery operation is going well but there remain many challenges and we will continue our relief efforts as long as necessary,” said Mr. Arsenault.
As part of his visit, Mr. Arsenault travelled to Bogalay in the Ayeyarwaddy division, one of the worst-hit areas.
“It’s a very difficult environment,” he said, “but the catastrophe has also opened several doors. Education is a very good example of where we can make a bigger difference.”
UNICEF has an opportunity to build-back-better by making substantial improvements in the social services made available for children and their families. One of the ways UNICEF can do this is through the construction of child-friendly spaces, which can then become multi-purpose centres for the community.
Many children suffered in the wake of the cyclone, some of whom saw their parents killed, or their villages swept away. But remarkably, signs of recovery were evident, as communities in the hardest hit areas pulled together and were able to make use of temporary shelters, health centres and classrooms.
“There is nothing like coming to see for yourself,” Mr. Arsenault said. “I was amazed by the resilience of the affected populations and by the sense of community in Myanmar society. Communities have begun remarkable recovery efforts in the face of enormous difficulties.”
Amy Bennett contributed to this story from New York.
Myanmar Cyclone Crisis 2008