A year on – Myanmar cyclone survivors facing ‘credit crunch’

Emergencies, Media Releases article written on the 30 Apr 2009

A year on – Myanmar cyclone survivors facing ‘credit crunch’

$965 million needed to rebuild devastated Delta region

Hundreds of thousands of people who survived Myanmar’s worst-ever cyclone are facing the prospect of being trapped in debt as the one year anniversary of Cyclone Nargis approaches, international aid agency Oxfam said today.

Oxfam is calling on the international community to provide urgent help to the people affected by the cyclone, who are facing their own ‘credit crunch’.

Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said that one of the many impacts of Cyclone Nargis was that it destroyed almost an entire harvest that farmers and fishermen had already borrowed against.

“That has meant many families defaulted on those loans, and haven’t been able to access enough credit ever since to get back on their feet,” Mr Hewett said.

“Urgent international assistance is needed before June so that farming and fishing families can kick-start their upcoming harvest, repay their loans, and avoid losing any more to this devastating cyclone and its aftermath.”

Cyclone Nargis, which hit Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Delta and Yangon Division on May 2 – 3, 2008, killed 140 000 people. It also destroyed homes and schools, and demolished farmland, cattle, fishing ponds and equipment, leaving the vast majority of survivors who rely on these for an income struggling to make ends meet.

A recovery plan, prepared by the Association of South East Nations (ASEAN), the United Nations in Myanmar and the Government of the Union of Myanmar, found the international community needs to contribute $965 million over the next three years to help people restore their lives to what they were before the cyclone.

The United Nations Flash Appeal for the cyclone, which closes tomorrow, is only 67 per cent funded, and importantly has a $58 million dollar shortfall in funding needed for agricultural projects.

Mr Hewett said aid agencies did not want to see funding end after the first anniversary of the cyclone, and had not seen enough pledges from the international community for long-term aid.

“The Australian Government was part of the generous response to the cyclone, providing $3 million for in the initial relief effort, which has helped to ensure that almost all cyclone-survivors have been reached with some level of assistance,” Mr Hewett said.

“But Cyclone Nargis caused a level of destruction similar to the worst-hit areas of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. The 2.4 million people affected will continue to feel its impact unless aid keeps flowing from Australia and elsewhere for the next three years.”

Oxfam’s experience in the cyclone response has been that it has been possible for us to deliver aid to survivors effectively and accountably. Oxfam has reached approximately half a million people with aid in the cyclone-affected regions.
For more information or to interview Andrew Hewett call Kate Thwaites on 0407 515 559