WFP staff tell their tales through photos, videos and stories

WFP staff capture some quintessential WFP moments in our staff photo, video and story competition.

Introduction

Staff capture some quintessential WFP moments in our staff photo, video and story competition. The three winners of the contest this time around are:

  • Anna Yla Kauttu, who won the photo competition with her photograph (above) of WFP staffers in Madagascar following Cyclone Ivan.
  • Chris Kaye, WFP Country Director in Myanmar, won the video competition. In the video, Kaye takes a tour of the Ayeyarwady delta by boat and speaks about the utter devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis. Click herefor video.
  • Kyawoo Maung, head of the Labutta sub-office, is the winner of the story competition. You can read his riveting story below.

Story competition winner: Surviving Nargis – The story of how two brothers reunited against all odds

By Kyawoo Maung, head of the Labutta sub-office (as told to WFP Public Affairs Officer Marcus Prior)

When brothers Kyaw and Aung Naing were swept away by the tidal surge that followed in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, neither of them would have known that they were the only survivors from their family.

But putting even the most basic pieces of their lives back together again would take days of heartache and suffering, lightened only by the discovery that at least they had each other.

Their village of Mayangone, near Labutta in the Irrawaddy delta, was flattened by the wall of water that has left tens of thousands of people dead and many more still missing. Nargis swept Kyaw, a small, round-faced 11-year-old, across the Pyan Mae Law River, where somehow he emerged alive and sought shelter in a monastery in Labutta.

Their lives had been turned completely upside down – and the road ahead of them was going to be full of hardship and suffering.

All 14-year-old Aung could remember was falling unconscious, his thin, long body later being hauled from the water and onto a boat. He was then taken to a government temporary shelter at Myaung Mya.

A week later, Aung decided to leave to see if he could get back to his village and find any of his family alive. After three and a half hours on a bus, he made it to Labutta, where he miraculously discovered Kyaw at the monastery.

But with little if any space for newcomers at the monastery, the two brothers decided to continue their journey homewards, taking a boat ride overnight and arriving at Mayangone around lunchtime the following day. As it happened, a WFP assessment team was on site, where they had found just 32 survivors of the storm, out of a population of 322. The village had been utterly destroyed, and the survivors were surrounded by appalling filth and swarms of large, aggressive flies. There was no shelter or clean drinking water and only a day’s food supply left.

Neither Kyaw nor Aung had eaten for 36 hours and were completely famished. They fearfully approached the site, wearing clothes too large for their frail bodies - oversized t-shirts and tattered old trousers which they had no doubt picked up in one of the camps along the way. The WFP team had their lunch boxes with them – which were filled with rice and local curry - but quickly handed all four of them over to the boys. Their eyes turned bright at the sight of food and in a matter of minutes, the rice and curry completely vanished into their mouths.

After the boys finished eating, depression sank in– like a dark, looming cloud – and their exhaustion and hopelessness were palpable. Their lives had been turned completely upside down – and the road ahead of them was going to be full of hardship and suffering.

Before the brothers left, the WFP staff gave them a 5-day ration of high-energy biscuits. Regular one-month rations were distributed at Mayangone the following day.

The survivors of Cyclone Nargis have been left with almost nothing – no animals, seeds or fishing tackle which were the tools of their livelihoods. Morale in the delta is low as it is impossible for people to take care of each other properly with the little assistance that has been received to date. This is a particular frustration for the people of the Irrawaddy, whose Buddhist philosophy compels them to look after those less fortunate than themselves.

Meanwhile, Kaw and Aung wonder how they are going to get through the days, weeks and months ahead. They have no idea what the future holds – who will look after them, whether they will go back to school or how to cope with life without a family.

Of one thing they can be sure – WFP will be back to provide food for at least the next six months. It’s not everything they need, of course, but it is a start.