One year ago, Cyclone Nargis devastated entire regions of southern Myanmar (Burma), claimed 138’000 lives and left 2.4 million people destitute. The Irrawaddy Delta, the country’s rice bowl, was particularly badly affected, but the metropolis of Rangoon was also hit. A Swiss Solidarity appeal for donations raised 4.73 million Swiss francs within a few weeks. To date this has enabled 20 projects to be implemented in cooperation with nine relief organizations. This has involved emergency aid (food, medicaments, drinking water, plastic sheeting etc.), the rebuilding of huts, houses and schools – some raised on piles – as well as the first stages of sustainable aid to secure livelihoods (fishing boats, nets, water supply, hygiene programmes etc.).
Swiss Solidarity has so far used 4 million Swiss francs – the remainder is designated for other relief projects now under preparation. Relief efforts proved extremely difficult in the first few days after the disaster: the Myanmar military junta only allowed aid supplies to drip into the country and obstructed or delayed urgently needed assistance. Once again, Swiss Solidarity was able to work with relief organizations already active in the country before the disaster and with good contacts to local organizations.
This has proved successful. Several visits to the location that were carried out independently of each other have shown that help did reach the victims. Nevertheless, all the damage has by no means been repaired and salinization of the soil means that the first rice harvests will be extremely poor. As a result, further assistance is needed.