Myanmar Emergency: Action Against Hunger Mounts Response in Wake of Cyclone Nargis
Category three Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar on Saturday May 2nd in the Ayeyarwaddy Delta region before making its way to Myanmar’s capital, Yangon. Though initial reports have come out of the capital, the final extent of casualties and damages remains unknown, particularly in the hard-hit western part of the delta. The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System estimates that up to 7 million people could be affected, and Action Against Hunger, with teams based in Yangon, has launched a needs assessment in the affected areas of urban Yangon (Hlaing Tha Yar) and Southern Ayeyarwaddy in coordination with other agencies on the ground in order to design an effective response to the disaster.
Action Against Hunger had highlighted Ayeyarwaddy’s vulnerability as a disaster prone area in February of 2008 after conducting a water, sanitation, hygiene, and disaster risk reduction assessment.. Action Against Hunger’s assessment revealed that:
- The majority of water points are unprotected while both water quality and quantity during the dry season were reported as insufficient ;
- Most of the water points were not built to resist disasters such as strong cyclones;
- Though Committees for Disaster Preparedness and Response do exist at the local level, their level of preparation is unknown and the extent of damage may be greater than initially thought;
- Population density is high in the three districts located along the cyclone’s path (Pathein, Myaugmya, Pyapon)—an estimated 4.5 million people. As the cyclone was strongest when it first touched down, casualties and damages to infrastructure are likely to be highest in these areas;
- The capital of Ayeyarwaddy (Pathein) may be accessible by road from Yangon but the rest of the region is far more remote. Road conditions and quality were constraints even before the cyclone—during ACF’s February assessment—and are likely to far worse after Nargis.
Based on this information and ACF’s experience in similar contexts, ACF is preparing to launch an emergency intervention targeting the needs of the most affected of the Ayeyarwaddy division through:
- Distribution of water purifying tablets
- Provision of water supply
- Rehabilitation and protection of water points
- Distributions of essential non food items and emergency shelters
- Basic hygiene promotion
- Environmental clearing and clean up
- Provision of food, cash, and/or vouchers depending on local market accessibility
A similar intervention may be launched in Yangon following the results of Action Against Hunger’s ongoing assessment.
Action Against Hunger has worked in Myanmar since 1994 and currently intervenes in Rakhine and Kayah states through nutrition, water, sanitation, and hygiene activities, and food security programs. A team of 21 international staff and more than 300 national staff are currently mobilized.