Wind of Ayeyarwady River (2) - Recovery in Myanmar after Cyclone -
Since Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar, causing massive damage with more than 130,000 people dead or missing and 2.4 million left suffered, Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) has been continuously pursuing their activities of recovery support together with International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and 3,000 volunteers. Right after the cyclone struck, foreign support could barely be delivered to the devastated Ayeyarwady Division. Villages were isolated as rivers flooded their banks and made access very difficult, thus the activities of emergency relief were difficult to develop. Despite such a difficult situation, the volunteers of MRCS played an active role on the frontline of the relief efforts, and 3,000 of them are still engaged in activities of recovery support to date.
Under the recovery support plan, various programs have already started to restore life to the normal levels before the disaster, as well as to protect against future disasters. These activities include the rebuilding of livelihoods to recover the means of life taken away by storm surges and high waves, the promotion of healthcare and sanitation, the construction of shelters, and the development of disaster prevention plans.
Following the previous report, this issue again features a report from Ms. Chiyuki Yoshida, a nurse of the Japanese Red Cross Society Wakayama Medical Center, who as an IFRC member has been involved in health and sanitation as part of the recovery support activities.
“Let’s make our project active and long-lasting” -MRCS volunteers-
The Labutta area in Ayeyarwady Division is located near the coastline. People usually move by a middle-sized engine-powered boat because the river is wide and fast-flowing. Labutta is one of areas most damaged by the cyclone, where villages located along the river were collapsed, with tremendous loss of lives.
After 3 hours traveling by boat, we arrived at Kumbet, a relatively large- sized village where 1,200 affected households are living in 10 divided communities. The village has three primary schools and one junior high school, of which all the buildings suffered damage in the cyclone, and MRCS is taking part in repair work on them. A health education class was held at one of the primary schools where healthcare volunteers of MRCS are actively working. As part of healthcare education programs to children, we have made an education plan for teaching them how important it is to engage in hand-washing, teeth-brushing, and gargling, and also how foods should be kept in good quality. The first practice of this plan took place here in the Labutta area, and Ms. San San Maw , Labutta Hub office manager of MRCS Labutta has been taking a major role. She is a long-time contributor to the local community and has devoted herself to various activities as a MRCS volunteer and as an administrator of MRCS HIV/AIDS prevention projects.
When arriving at the primary school, the principal welcomed us together with other teachers, office staff and school children with smiles. In this school, children of the 1st – 5th grade study together in the same classroom. In fact, the school building itself is not in a good condition, with cracks and holes in its ceilings and walls. The Ministry of Education keeps working on reconstruction of school buildings, but it seems to take more time to complete it at the local unit level. The children prepared songs and dances for this occasion, and showed us their performance. They sang a pretty song, saying “Wash our hands before meals, and so do it after using bathrooms, too. Do not leave leftovers, and wash dishes cleanly. Sweep up the room, and say good-bye to flies.” Viewing a wonderful heart-warming scene like this, I felt like I was seeing a future image gradually coming out as the fruit of the effort of MRCS healthcare education programs, which are now about to be applied to 500 primary schools throughout Ayeyarwady. I am currently drawing up detailed, practical plans together with the MRCS volunteers. We promise to each other. “Let’s go together and make our project active and long-lasting.”
Future Map of MRCS and IFRC
Recently, IFRC published its three-year recovery support plan for 100,000 affected households. Its Health & Care Division has set up various projects for the purpose of building up healthy, disaster-proof communities by working together with local citizens. To solve the critical situation of drinking water shortages, the water sanitation division has installed water feed tanks so that water supply can continue to be available to 6,000 households. In addition, at each point of water supply, healthcare and sanitation volunteers give guidance to the victims on how to store clean drinking water. They are also engaged in maintenance and cleaning work on the reservoir facility which provides 50,000 households with daily life-giving water. The Health & Care Division has trained 150 local first aid instructors in nine areas where MRCS chapters are located, and they are now educating as many as 1,350 MRCS healthcare volunteers by conducting training seminars. The volunteers consist of local residents with the strong desire to become active players in various MRCS activities. Age and occupation vary by members, but they are all serious participants in the training sessions.
We are planning to improve water sanitation, and also emphasize our support for the local activities to protect against prevailing malaria in rainy seasons and spreading Tuberculosis(TB) by distributing mosquito nets with proper guidance, and facilitating the provision of vaccinations, which are given by local midwives. In addition, we will set up 100 MRCS community posts, which are expected to be utilized as activity bases not only for the Health & Care Division but also for the other divisions such as livelihood support, water sanitation, and the shelters.
We continue to strive for reaching support surely to the community people in Delta. The small Red Cross and Crescent boat with MRCS volunteers on board is now steadily sailing before the pleasant breeze from the Ayeyarwady river.