After the Flooding: The Faces of Myanmar

After the Flooding: The Faces of Myanmar

Publication info

Posted
8/14/15

Severe flooding and landslides in Myanmar, caused by Cyclone Komen hitting neighboring Bangladesh, have led to the country’s worst natural disaster since Cyclone Nargis in 2008. Many villagers have lost everything and the road to recovery will be long as hundreds of thousands of acres of rice paddies and farmland have been inundated.

Around 11 p.m. on July 29, the wind started. 61-year-old Daw Ha Mi Dar checked on her house in Kayu Chaung village, western Myanmar. By midnight her house had collapsed. She had to dig herself and her daughter out with her bare hands.

Daw Ha Mi Dar is one of thousands of people who lost everything when Cyclone Komen devastated the country at the end of July 2015 with severe flooding and landslides. So far, more than 100 people have died and more than a million have been affected.

“I had to tear the bamboo sheeting to get away from my collapsed house and my hand was injured while I was doing this. We ran to our neighbor’s stronger house, but I could not carry anything with me. I have lost everything including cups, plates, pots, 15 chickens and one goat,” she recounts.

Lost everything

Cyclone Komen and the flooding it caused have led to the worst natural disaster to hit Myanmar since the devastating 2008 Cyclone Nargis. Villagers tell of strong winds that blew off flimsy bamboo roofs and subsequent heavy flooding and landslides that killed their animals and destroyed their food stores and crops.

As 41-year-old Kaw Tiza of the nearby Gu Du Tha Ra village says: “At about midnight my family went out from my house and ran to my neighbor’s house because the house started shaking from the strong winds, and the next morning we had to evacuate the house again because the flooding started.”

Kaw Tiza was already struggling before the cyclone hit. She is a widow looking after seven children, all under the age of 14, and she often had to rely on the kindness of her neighbors just to make ends meet. Now, after the cyclone, she has lost what little she had.  She hopes to get some support with livestock going forward.

CARE assistance

CARE began distributing key relief items including cooking utensils, mosquito nets, soap, candles, sleeping mats, water containers and tarpaulins on August 6 to communities in some of the areas worst affected by the cyclone. For many who have lost everything this has provided a key lifeline.

“I am happy [with the items provided by CARE]. I will not sell them as they are useful items and I have nothing,” says 45-year-old widower and single mother, Daw Oo Nyunt Sein.

She ran to a neighbor’s house after her own collapsed and lost nearly everything: “I carried only a blanket and pillow. My house collapsed and all of my belonging, including kitchen utensils and clothes, are gone.”

For most, the tarpaulin is proving the most useful item, as it will give them some immediate – if temporary – shelter from the continuing rains.  “I am very happy to receive this assistance. It will be useful for my family. Now I can start to build temporary shelter with the tarpaulin,” says 45-year-old Annawar Baekaung.

Long recovery

Much more still needs to be done. When their belongings, food stocks and livestock were destroyed by the cyclone, people lost not only their possessions but also their livelihoods and means of earning a living. All this will need to be restored if families and communities are to once again become self-sufficient and rebuild their lives.

CARE will continue to work with the affected communities to provide the much needed lifesaving aid, while also looking at how we can help people recover all that was lost in the longer term.

 

A family in the village of Gu Du Tha Ra in western Myanmar have recevied key relief items from CARE after having lost everyting to the floods. ©2015 Isaac Kyaw Htun Hla/CARE

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