Monday, April 25, 2011

Giri rebuild gains pace but livelihoods underfunded

U Maung Soe Tun stands with his wife and children outside of the family’s newly built hut in MinbyaFebruary 2011, Minbya Township – For casual labourer and father of two, U Maung Soe Tun, the arrival of Cyclone Giri on 22 October appeared to destroy his dream of owning his own house.
“Before Cyclone Giri, we lived in a very small hut and life was so hard. As a casual labourer I could only ever earn K1,500 a day, which wasn’t even enough to buy food all of the time and we lived hand-to-mouth,” he said. “But I always dreamed of building my own house.”
“On the way, I saw many buildings and trees had been flattened – even the biggest ones. I thought to myself that if those couldn’t resist the storm, then there was no chance that our little hut could possibly have escaped.
“When I finally arrived, I found that it had been destroyed and nothing was left, which made me very upset,” he said.
A few days later, aid organisations such as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme and Artsen Zonder Grenzen (AZG – Médecins Sans Frontières, Holland) came to the village and distributed rice and foodstuffs, he said.
“I tried to build a temporary shelter for my family and went to the jungle to cut some wood. But I still had no money, no job and no real home to sleep in,” he said.
“Fortunately, UNDP staff came to our village to meet storm victims and held a meeting. They asked us to estimate how much it costs to build an average house. At the same time, UNDP organised a separate community meeting to identify the most vulnerable and poorest of the poor in the village, which included my family,” he said.

On 14 February, UNDP began helping 236 households in seven villages in Minbya Township to begin rebuilding their homes before the next monsoon arrives in April or May. A cornerstone of the shelter assistance programme was the training of 35 carpenters from seven villages between 26 and 30 January. Five carpenters from each of the villages travelled to Nat Shin Chaung village in Minbya Township and were given training in how to build disaster-resilient houses. Training was conducted in collaboration with UN-HABITAT.
U Maung Soe Htun was told that his family would have a new house built for them by the trainees.
“I was so happy and excited all the time, even at night. It was like a dream come true for my family, except that we could never dream of owning a house as nice as the one they built for us,” he said.
The newly trained carpenters will be responsible for supervising the construction of houses that will be funded by UNDP’s shelter assistance project. In Minbya and Myebon townships, UNDP plans to rebuild or repair nearly 1,300 homes.
Shelter and livelihoods remain central to UNDP Myanmar’s efforts to rehabilitate Giri-affected areas of Rakhine State. According to UN, at least 104,000 people are still living with host families in the four worst-hit townships of Myebon, Pauktaw, Minbya and Kyaukpyu.
The immediate shelter assistance delivered mostly has consisted of basic or emergency building supplies such as tarpaulins and plastic sheeting, all of which are short term solutions.
UNDP Resident Representative/Resident Coordinator, Mr Bishow Parajuli, stressed the severity of the shelter situation in Giri-hit areas to donors and other attendees at the recent humanitarian partnership meeting.
Shelter Project“If shelters and embankments are not rebuilt before the monsoon season and farmers are unable to plant their crops this year, the people in these townships may face a prolonged crisis,” Mr Parajuli said.
UNDP has received two Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) grants of about US$350,000 and $94,000 respectively that will be used to rebuild a number of homes and enable a few remote villages facing acute water shortages to access drinking water for a period of three months.
In terms of livelihoods, UNDP takes the lead in rebuilding embankments to protect cropping fields and restore non-agricultural livelihoods.
Immediately after Giri, UNDP has already implemented Immediate Income Generating Activities (IIGA) programmes at 40 villages in Minbya Township and 50 villages in Myebon Township that assisted more than 5,700 households. Under that programme, workers, most of whom badly required money to restart their lives after the storm, were paid K2000 a day to undertake clearing, cleaning and rebuilding work to rehabilitate jetties, footpaths, wells and other vital community infrastructure.
The second phase of the IIGA scheme is being implemented in 28 of 40 villages in Minbya Township starting mid-February. It’s expected to benefit more than 1,140 households or 3,592 people in the township. Under the scheme embankments in three villages will be rebuilt, water ponds in 15 villages will be renovated and footpaths in 10 villages will be repaired.
Every volunteer who participated in IIGA will earn at least K20,000 ($20) that will supplement the buying of livelihood assets or expand their income generating businesses.
However, a lack of funding to regenerate livelihoods also looms as a major challenge in Giri-affected areas. Post-Giri needs are estimated at $57 million, and only $22 million has been provided by donors to date.
“Humanitarian partners operating in Myanmar have been able to reach the affected areas and are providing crucial support directly to the people, in coordination with the Myanmar authorities. But funding constraints mean that many communities are left vulnerable,” Mr Parajuli said.
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