Overcoming Distress left by Nargis
By Myint Myint Hla
Pa De Gaw, MYANMAR, 6 November 2008 – Life in Pa De Gaw, Bogalay has never been the same for Zin Ko Latt after Cyclone Nargis struck his village in May this year. . Orphaned by the Cyclone, Zin Ko Latt has been passing the time in tragic, distress and moments of hardships. The empty face of Zin Ko Latt bears the pain of empty life.
“On that very night, when the flood water came into the village, many villagers were swept away to an island situated opposite of Pa De Gaw village. It was dark and the wind was so strong. I survived by grabbing on to a floating tree log,” said Zin Ko Latt. When he returned to the village after sheltering in temporary settlements for two weeks, he found out that only 770 survived among the 3600 of village population.
“I found my elder brother while I was staying at the temporary settlement in Bogalay and I also found out that we lost both parents and a younger brother,” said Zin Ko Latt with sadness in his voice. Though lived in distress, there is also a sense of hope hidden underneath the layers of tragedy and emptiness. Zin Ko Latt, 13 and seven grader, loves studying. Before cyclone ravaged Pa De Gaw, the village has post primary school that the villagers hired a teacher on cost sharing.
One month after the cyclone, the school in his village was re-opened. While all primary school children were able to resume their education, he and his peers were unable to, as their teacher who was hired for post primary classes died. Moreover, they could no longer afford to hire a teacher as the livelihood of the village was destroyed. The newly recruited primary school teacher for the village felt sad for post primary students. “I really wish I could do something for their education. But at present, there are only two teachers who have to take care of students from grade one to five”, says Daw Pyait Pyait Phyo, who is teaching at the village’s reconstructed school.
Soon, UNICEF came to open Child-friendly space (CFS) in their village avoiding school hours inviting all children to come to the centre as part of their psychosocial support activities. They would teach children to sing songs, tell stories, draw pictures and provide nutritional support. In addition, CFS trainer identified vulnerable children who could not afford to continue their education, which includes Zin Ko Latt.
With UNICEF support, they were provided school text books and exercise books and an alternative schooling arrangement is made for them so that they can continue their education. Whenever he studies in class Zin Ko Latt would wear a school uniform donated by a well-wisher.
“I am very happy now that I can study. I am also grateful to UNICEF. By concentrating in my studies I can forget my distress,” says Zin Ko Latt who hopes to become a teacher one day, aiming to fulfil the gap of shortage in teachers in his own village.
UNICEF has already identified and supported vulnerable children affected by the Cyclone. In addition to school support UNICEF has been giving awareness-raising sessions on child protection to communities, forming community-support groups, in order to protect their children from neglect, abuse, violence and exploitation so that their children can develop to their potential fully: intellectually, emotionally, socially, and physically. UNICEF is also engaged in family tracing and reunification of the separated and unaccompanied children, provision of income-generation activities to vulnerable families, and to establish Child Protection systems in their villages.