Myanmar delta communities surviving on resilience says World Vision

Even as desperate needs remain one month after Cyclone Nargis, many affected communities in Myanmar's Irrawaddy Delta are managing to survive and rebuild by pooling their resources and demonstrating rare resilience, according to World Vision staff who recently assessed the delta's Ngapudaw region.

While many villages are receiving assistance from aid agencies and local organizations, many basic necessities are still desperately needed, the team found.

"One village we visited had been completely flattened," said World Vision's cyclone response manager Steve Goudswaard. "They lost 237 out of 603 people there. The tragedy of the impact was etched on their faces, but people were already rebuilding with whatever they could find."

On Friday, Goudswaard led a team of international relief specialists from World Vision's Global Rapid Response Team into the Ngapudaw region of the Irrawaddy Delta to assess existing programs and future needs for the people there.

Goudswaard said he was amazed by the communities pooling their resources to move forward. "They were mapping out where their homes would be rebuilt, and cleaning out contaminated water points because they knew how important clean, safe water was," he said.

However, communities are still in desperate need, Goudswaard added. Some need emergency distribution of food, clean water and shelter. Others need seeds and tools to help them plant crops before the end of the season in July.

The humanitarian community has seen an increase in access for staff and supplies since the agreement between the UN, ASEAN and the government of Myanmar. However, four weeks after the cyclone, access is still restrictive for international staff, who are required to apply days in advance for permission to enter the Delta.

Physical conditions still pose a major challenge for aid workers, with poor transport and infrastructure blocking access to many communities in need.

To date, World Vision staff have concentrated on the immediate needs of survivors, with food, shelter, clean water and child protection among the main priorities. Despite the difficulties in reaching affected communities, World Vision has provided assistance to over 250,000 people, and hopes to reach nearly half a million with relief and rehabilitation in the first six months of response. The organization hopes to remain in affected communities to support rebuilding and livelihood initiatives for up to three years.

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