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180 days after Cyclone Nargis: Relief efforts on track but support is still needed

© UNICEF Myanmar/2008/Jim Holmes
A group of children on the village jetty in B Toot of Laputta, Ayeyarwaddy Division.

By Sandar Linn

YANGON, 4 November, 2008 - Six months after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Delta, relief efforts are on track but support is still required to bring medium to long-term solutions to children and their families, UNICEF said today.

“As much damage and suffering as the cyclone has caused, it is also a chance to build back better. Now is the time to bring permanent solutions to improve the lives of children and their families and the future generations,” said Ramesh Shrestha, Resident Representative of UNICEF Myanmar.

As a standard-setting model for all school reconstruction to come, UNICEF plans to construct seven model safe and child-friendly schools. These buildings will be cyclone and earthquake resistant to a certain degree and can be used as shelter for communities in case of emergencies. Construction will start in November. UNICEF is also looking into the reconstruction of the health infrastructure and permanent interventions for water and sanitation facilities.

While planning for longer term solutions, the immediate relief effort continues with more than 390,000 children in 2,500 schools benefiting from UNICEF support. This includes essential learning kits, school kits for teachers  and psychosocial training for teachers to help children cope with the aftermath of the cyclone. 

© UNICEF Myanmar/2008/Anna Stechert
A Myanmar boy is walking into a child-friendly space.

UNICEF has also established 104 child-friendly spaces in monasteries and other public places offering psychosocial activities to approximately 18,500 children, and helped to form 140 community-based child protection support groups. More than 135,000 people have access to drinking water through cleaned ponds and wells. Midwives received 70,000 delivery kits and 134 health facilities repaired. UNICEF will continue providing relief supplies and strengthening community networks as well as training health staff and teachers in the affected areas.

“Thanks to the full cooperation between the Government, UNICEF and the NGOs, the relief effort for the first six months has been successful,” said Mr. Shrestha. “However, we cannot stop now, as there are still pressing issues to address for medium to long term needs.”

The Department of Social Welfare, UNICEF, the Myanmar Red Cross and other partners are also continuing their efforts to reunite families separated by the cyclone. A total of 1,048 children have been registered in a joint database, out of which 30 children have been reunited with their families. Separated and unaccompanied children are cared for by the communities with support from UNICEF and its partners.

UNICEF and its partners are also working on finding solutions for a possible risk of water shortage during the upcoming dry season. With the end of the monsoon rapidly approaching, rain fall has already decreased in the past weeks. Yet, not all ponds and wells that were salinated by the floods have been cleaned and refilled with rain water. Working on strengthening the existing water supply mechanisms in the rural areas, UNICEF and partners will increase water storage capacity at the household level.



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