Salvation Army relief work in Myanmar (Burma) continues

Daw Saw (right), her daughter and grandchildren in their new home

THE Salvation Army response to the cyclone that brought devastation in Myanmar (Burma) in early May continues to give hope to many people. International Emergency Services personnel and local Salvation Army officers are currently working in eight of the townships affected by the disaster.

Distribution of food and non-food items is ongoing and, in some areas, will continue for several months. The greatest need is for food. The harvest of rice was destroyed by the cyclone and many storehouses which contained rice from previous harvests were damaged, meaning that the rice was spoiled. Other food sources were also left beyond use – mango trees were uprooted, banana trunks broken and vegetable plants destroyed.

The next planting season for rice and other food is October/November. In desperation people have started to plant some things already but it is not the right time and the soil may even be salty from the seawater that swept over many parts of the land. The people have amazing resilience and determination to do whatever they can to rebuild their lives again.

Some people are day labourers for rubber plantations. With so many rubber trees destroyed there is no work for them any more. Some are forced to resort to taking on odd jobs and depend on other people to give them work. But in the affected areas everyone is struggling and jobs are difficult to come by.

In other areas the great need is for shelter. Although a typical house is built mainly of bamboo, even this is beyond the means for many families, especially with prices rising after the disaster and some goods being in short supply. Most families are able to build these kinds of houses themselves and the community members help each other.

In two villages The Salvation Army is purchasing building materials for about 20 houses a week. The families transport the material themselves to their compounds and with help from neighbours a house can be built in four days.

Two new homes - the one on the right is where Daw Saw and her family live

The wife from the elderly couple mentioned in the report by the temporary shelter built from the remains of their destroyed house and a donated tarpaulin

The elderly couple mentioned in the report in front of their new home

The most vulnerable families are selected for assistance first – people like Daw Saw, an elderly widow. Her home used to be in the middle of a field but when the cyclone hit her house was totally destroyed. Her daughter lived with her and several grandchildren, but they all had to seek refuge in other villagers' homes.

In another village the house of an elderly couple was among the first to be rebuilt. After the cyclone destroyed their house they salvaged enough materials to put together a temporary shelter, making use of tarpaulins given out by The Salvation Army and other non-governmental agencies.

Daw Saw and the elderly couple have now moved into their new homes. Next to Daw Saw lives another widow who was also among the first beneficiaries. With the help of neighbours, family members and the community, typical houses on stilts have been built, with bamboo thatched roofs and bamboo matted walls.

When International Emergency Services team members visited the project, Daw Saw was in her new home with her daughter and grandchildren. One of the grandchildren, who is disabled and cannot walk, said with a broad smile that he likes his grandmother’s new house very much.

The new bamboo houses are neat, airy and pretty. But more than that, they offer people like Daw Saw and her family protection and a life of dignity.

Report by Damaris Frick

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