Myanmar still suffering two years after cyclone

New houses as part of Caritas rebuilding program in Myanmar Credits: Caritas

New houses as part of Caritas rebuilding program in Myanmar
Credits: Caritas

Caritas says more needs to be done to help the survivors of a deadly cyclone in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) nearly two years ago.

Cyclone Nargis devastated the Irrawaddy Delta in May 2008. The storm killed nearly 140,000 people and left 2.4 million homeless. Nearly half a million people there don’t have a place to call home 20 months later.

In a message to Caritas supporters for Lent, Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon said, “May this season, bringing hope of resurrection to our people in the delta, the widows who lost their families, the homeless that wait by the wayside, for those without livelihoods. Lent brings the message that every Good Friday ends with the hope of Easter. The suffocating long night will one day end with a bright dawn.”

Caritas raised US $6.3 million (4.6 million) from 37 members, other aid agencies, and private donations. Caritas worked through 116 international and national staff in Myanmar, 340 volunteers, priests, nuns and seminarians to deliver aid.

Caritas provided immediate relief of food, water and shelter to 75,000 families in Yangon and Pathein in the first months after the cyclone.

Support was also given in healthcare, treating people at mobile clinics, raising awareness on nutrition, caring for children and counselling. Cash for work schemes were created to inject much needed income for families.

“Caritas members have shown singular kindness,” said Bishop Bo. “Despite the huge challenge and the limited capacity of parish and local staff, the Church has achieved objectives beyond the targets of 2008 and 2009.”

Recent surveys in Myanmar show that opportunities for income earning have shrunk, prolonging recovery. Unless lack of livelihoods are addressed, there is the potential for other crises such as surrendering land to money lenders, unsafe migration, under employment and chronic poverty.

A Caritas recovery phase is underway that is helping farmers obtain agricultural loans, families replace livestock, and fishermen replace boats and equipment. The programme also includes healthcare and HIV education, children’s rights and disaster management initiatives. However, the Caritas recovery phase is short of support with needs still to be met.

“Myanmar cannot be forgotten,” said Archbishop Bo. “Her graceful people have known too many crosses.”


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