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Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar: One year on

It was a year ago today when Cyclone Nargis struck the coast of Myanmar, leaving a trail of unprecedented destruction: 140,000 lives were lost and the livelihoods of 2.4 million people were shattered.

One year on, considerable progress has been made, greatly due to the involvement of local communities in the relief response and the recovery process. Despite being overwhelmed by the loss of their loved ones and their material possessions, people in the affected villages reached out and supported each other in a swift and resilient manner.

Building back better

Another important factor was the close cooperation between local, national and international partners, helping the communities build back better and providing renewed hope for the future.

UNDP was the only UN agency with field offices in the Nargis-affected Delta and was therefore able to mobilize resources within 24 hours. UNDP teams were sent in to assess the disaster, deliver relief items and provide support to the affected populations.

With partners, UNDP has worked in 580 villages to rebuild shelter, educational and health facilities. These activities have benefited more than 260,000 people living in the five most severely affected townships in the Delta.

Throughout the entire process, UNDP worked with local communities to identify their own priorities, design and implement initiatives and effectively monitor and evaluate their recovery. This was established with transparency and accountability in a way that made sure that the resources reached the people who needed them most.

The rebuilding process is ongoing. Livelihoods of the affected communities are still being restored. As the monsoon planting season approaches, one of the major goals for 2009 will be to improve villagers’ skills to better deal with future disasters – and swiftly build more cyclone-resistant shelters. This is an opportunity to invest in the future, giving new impetus to address long-standing issues: access to safe water and sanitation, managing the risk of natural disasters, supporting livelihoods in a sustainable way and empowering local communities.

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