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Myanmar: Six years after cyclone Nargis

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Now is the time to capitalize on disaster preparedness experience across all communities

Yangon, 2 May 2014: Six years after the devastating Cyclone Nargis struck the Ayeyawaddy delta in May 2008, UNICEF commemorates the victims, and reflects on the lessons learned from the response.

When Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in May 2008, people were taken by surprise and communities were seriously affected. Cyclone Nargis brought an unprecedented wave of death and destruction to an already fragile environment, killing more than 100,000 people in less than 24 hours and resulting in increased impoverishment and loss of livelihoods.  Myanmar is once again entering the cyclone season and it is important to raise awareness of response plans amongst communities, in advance of any possible natural disaster, so they are able to respond quickly when disaster threatens.

Immediately after Cyclone Nargis, UNICEF’s main concern was to save as many children’s lives as possible, and to put in place life saving interventions to ensure children had access to water and sanitation, nutrition and health care.  UNICEF worked together with national and local authorities, as well as international and national NGOs, to mobilise resources and to deliver essential services to children.  Once life-saving interventions were in place, UNICEF’s focus moved to supporting access to education and ensuring children were protected. Supporting children back to school as soon as possible was important: establishing normal routines helps children’s psychological well-being.  UNICEF mobilised close to 70 million US dollars and these interventions were scaled up, reaching 450,000 children by 2009.

“Looking back, we realise that in our response to the emergency, we managed to reach children who had never been covered before. For the first time we were reaching children who had never been vaccinated; and we managed to increase enrolment rate to 20 per cent above that before Nargis.  We were also able to build better, for example helping to establish child protection systems which have continued beyond the emergency response” said Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar.

In 2009, UNICEF built centres for preparedness, provided technical assistance, and strengthened the capacities of communities to respond.  In partnership with the Swiss Development Cooperation and with support from Japan, UNICEF helped the Government build better schools, more resilient to flooding.  UNICEF conducted training workshops on Education Emergency Preparedness and Response for education officials, officials from other relevant ministries and local and international NGO partners in order to further develop school-based disaster risk reduction programmes.

Today, UNICEF works to ensure that children are prioritised in emergency preparedness and response mechanisms and actively participates in the inter-agency effort to prepare a country-wide preparedness plan.  Working in partnership with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, UNICEF is a technical partner for the Disaster Management Training Centre, providing technical support to the disaster management training programme. UNICEF seeks to ensure that emergency preparedness is mainstreamed in all relevant programmes undertaken at the community, township and central levels.

In 2010 when Cyclone Giri hit Myanmar, there were fewer victims, communities were more resilient, and authorities had partnerships in place so that they were more able to respond.  In 2013, the Myanmar Government’s overall preparedness for Tropical Storm Mahasen was positive. 

Looking forward, a priority for Myanmar is to develop robust institutions capable of pre-planning, responding to and reducing the risk associated with natural hazards.  Children are the most vulnerable in situations of natural disaster.  UNICEF looks forward to continuing its work with Myanmar Government on further disaster response and preparedness efforts.

About UNICEF
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

UNICEF in Myanmar
UNICEF has been working with the Government and the people of Myanmar since 1950. In partnership with the Government and the civil society, UNICEF’s current focus of work aims at reducing child mortality, improving access and quality of education and protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation. For more information about UNICEF and its work in Myanmar. Please visit: http://www.unicef.org/myanmar. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information please contact:
Alison Rhodes, Chief, Advocacy Partnership and Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: 951-230 5960-69
Sandar Linn, Communication Officer, Advocacy Partnership and Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: 951-230 5960-69,  slinn@unicef.org
Ye Lwin Oo, Communication Officer, Advocacy Partnership and Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: 951-230 5960-69, ylwinoo@unicef.org

 

 
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