A Year After Cyclone, Myanmar Recovery Needs WFP

The devastation of Cyclone Nargis – the storm that struck Myanmar’s Ayeyarwaddy Delta on 2 May 2008 – is still visible. The effects of that devastation mean that WFP's work in the region is far from over. WFP's Chris Kaye says many livelihoods have been lost.

BANGKOK -- One year on, large portions of the Delta’s agricultural fields remain unplanted. Houses destroyed by the storm have yet to be rebuilt. Shortages of supplies, including drinking water, continue to hamper recovery efforts.  

For WFP, the continuing effects of Nargis mean that emergency food distributions for the poorest and most vulnerable residents of the hardest hit areas of the Ayeyarwaddy Delta – once known as Myanmar’s granary – will continue through the end of this year.  

food for recovery

young boy from bangkok sitting on top of bags of WFP food

A year in numbers:

  • Food aid delivered to over 1 million people 
  • Over 70,000 tons of food delivered
  • Over 1,000 tons of fortified Blended Food provided to 57,000 pregnant and lactating women and children
  • 76,000 people supported through Food-for-Work activities.
  • 112 kilometres of foot paths and 30 kilometres of dykes constructed, and 18 ponds renovated (since Jan 09)
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Recovering livelihoods

Chris Kaye, the WFP Representative in Yangon, is confident that WFP food assistance can meet the continuing food needs for the poorest residents of the delta; but he remains concerned that the slow pace of recovery means that people made poor by the storm will have difficulty getting their former lives back. Listen to Chris Kaye on NPR radio

“WFP emergency rations can help families get through these tough times, but farmers will still need cash to purchase seed for planting, or fertiliser, or ploughs and livestock, all assets that were lost across the delta during the cyclone,” says Kaye.  “Villagers who were once day labourers or who fished or shrimped need to get their jobs back before they can rebuild homes lost to Nargis.”

New food assistance programmes

WFP has transitioned much of its assistance over the past 12 months to better target the very poorest, and new programmes have used food assistance to help communities rebuild paddy dykes, roads and paths vital to economic recovery.

Kaye says that deeper and longer-term economic assistance and investments will be needed before the poorest communities can begin to recover their own livelihoods and assets and grow food for themselves – and for the country -- again.  

Kaye directed all WFP operations in Myanmar to help the survivors in the days, weeks and months that followed the cyclone.

 “Despite the utter destruction caused by Nargis, I continue to witness everyday the incredible resilience of the people of Myanmar, as they pick up the pieces of their lives with a quiet determination, and work to rebuild their homes, replant their fields, and recover their livelihoods,” he said. 

How WFP responded after Nargis