Myanmar : Five years after Cyclone Nargis

Five years ago, Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar, causing the worst natural disaster in the country’s history. At least 138,000 Burmese people were killed. Much of the Irrawaddy Delta was devastated, cut off for days. Travelling by boat and canoe, Caritas workers reached communities with food, water and medicine.
“Death ruled supreme for a day, yet humanity rapidly reasserted itself,” said Archbishop Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, “A humanity that could be moved by the human tear, a humanity that rushed to help a wounded brother and sister, proclaiming the overwhelming power of compassion.”

An emergency appeal was launched to get people through the first three months after the cyclone. The focus was on getting food, clean water, hygiene items and cooking utensils to around 45,000 people and shelter to around 20,000 people.

Once the emergency was over, Caritas and the Church focused their efforts on supporting villagers in rebuilding their communities. This meant helping people get back to work, boosting educational opportunities by building schools, rebuilding infrastructure to improve transportation and trade and supporting communities in identifying weaknesses and preparing themselves for future disasters.

Myanmar was one of Asia’s poorest countries, and lack of food was a problem even before the storm. Caritas has paid particular attention to sustainable aid in agriculture. Farmers were able to attend classes teaching them how rehabilitate destroyed rice fields and how to improve farming methods.

As part of the five year anniversary of Cyclone Nargis, 600 people from 10 villages came together to mark the anniversary in Tayoke Kone village, in Labutta township, a fishing village on the coast in Irrawaddy Delta, and one of the hardest hit areas of the disaster. The two-day event was led by Karuna Myanmar Social Services (KMSS), the Church body organisation Caritas works through in Burma/Myanmar. Read more on our blog…

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