By Zaw Aung
This time around two years ago, no one would have expected there would be a deadly cyclone that targeted an impoverished land and caused the worst natural devastation in history. Certainly neither would people in the fishing villages on the bank of the Irrawaddy River whose simple and peaceful lives were mercilessly wiped out. On May 2, 2008, the Category 4 (est. 135 mph) tropical cyclone known as ‘Nargis’ furiously raged through a fertile agricultural land on the Irrawaddy delta and parts of the former Burmese capital Rangoon. The effect of this Cyclone Nargis was shocking. Approximately 150,000 human fatalities and over 50,000 missing were claimed and several millions of dollars was lost.
While the world was still traumatized by this terrifying disaster, the wicked military regime were seeking ways to cover it up and blocked the local and international relief efforts. Their untrusting nature unforgivably delayed the U.S. government and several western countries’ relief efforts. But despite all, compassionate people across the country and around the world tried their best to reach the cyclone victims to provide them with impressive humanitarian assistance.
Now, two years later, despite many international criticisms directed at the regime’s response to the disaster, it still shamelessly makes no single effort to rebuild the area. The victims are still on their own and struggling to recover from it. Life in the devastated area remains tough as people still encounter daily shortages of basic needs. They fear that the regime will continue to ignore their needs and that the world would forget their fate by refilling their minds with other fresh disasters in other parts of the world.
To find out how people in the ravaged area are expressing their feelings, take a look at the embedded video report below.
“The situation is very bad. Before Nargis, our lives were quite good. Two years after, our situation got a bit better but is still tough and hasn’t returned to our standard life.”
The Irrawaddy Delta is the most devastated region. The vast areas of agricultural land are still inundated with salt water and remain impossible to farm. Also, poor people lost their food stocks, livestock and farming supplies.
“Our village was totally destroyed. We cannot have a regular meal. Some people have to eat broken rice (low grade). The relief aid groups showed up to help right after the Nargis destruction, but six months later, all assistance stopped coming in. We have no idea how we will move forward.
Despite the international relief efforts, people have not received enough assistance. Hundreds of thousands of people are still homeless and unemployed with no health care and children are still out of school. Worse yet, the ECHO (European Community Humanitarian Aid Department) has decided to end its humanitarian aid to these victims. The Human Rights Watch group condemns the military regime for denying the victims their basic freedom and imposing restrictions on the aid agencies (read its report “I want to help my own people (http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/burma0410webwcover.pdf)”.
For some local people, they have not been able to hold a memorial service for their loved ones who died in the cyclone. “I had nine family members. Six of them including my wife and five children were killed by the Nargis. Now, only three in our family are alive. One month after the cyclone, I had a memorial service for them but not an annual service yet.”
Although this natural catastrophe took place two years ago, people in this devastated area are still haunted by their memories of the deadly storms and loss of their loved ones. These victims should not be forgotten. They still face a tremendous lack of basic needs and massive support.