In the year following the devastating Cyclone Nargis ActionAid has helped over 150,000 people in 500 villages in Burma's Ayeyarwady delta.
Paras Mani Tamang, ActionAid’s emergencies advisor for Asia, said the work will continue into 2010: "ActionAid will continue to provide support and training to communities and people who can help them. But we do require long term commitment from our supporters to ensure the safety and security of the poorest and the most vulnerable."
On 2nd and 3rd May 2008 the cyclone struck the delta with peak winds of 215 km/h (135 mph), heavy rain and a storm surge which washed away entire island communities. An estimated 84,527 people died, a further 53,856 went missing and 33,574 were injured. 2.4 million people were affected in total.
In the immediate aftermath of the cyclone ActionAid helped 120,000 people in Bogale, Labutta and Pyapon with relief items such as temporary shelter, food, and clothes.
Two months after the cyclone we helped 8,640 families in 216 villages to quickly recover their livelihoods and reduce their dependency on aid. Cash for work programmes also helped people get back on their feet.
In the longer term, we have helped 2,000 people rebuild their homes.
Women become decision-makers
Much of the work was undertaken by local staff who understood the context and could judge the most appropriate form of intervention. For example, we trained 170 people from 143 villages on how to provide community-based psychosocial care and support.
Since the cyclone women have stepped out of traditional gender roles and taken a more active part in decision-making processes. ActionAid’s agreements with partner organisations ensured that 50% of committee members were women.
A 21-year-old female volunteer working with ActionAid and partners in Bogale Township commented: "Before, women were not interested in the same way. They focussed on the nuclear family. But since Nargis, women have wanted to participate in the meetings and become more involved in making big decisions because they realise how important they are."
Tropical storms form in the Bay of Bengal every year, and disaster could revisit the communities hit by Nargis. ActionAid has been working with some of those communities to ensure that they are better prepared to survive future storms and floods. As a result, 13 villages in Pyapon have developed their own disaster risk reduction plans. ActionAid has helped to form and train village task forces for disaster preparedness. We have also conducted eight training courses on disaster risk reduction for government officials.