Case study

Burma - six months after Cyclone Giri: Rebuilding lives in Ohn Taw village

Merlin was one of a number of local and international non governmental organisations supported by the UK government to bring much needed assistance to the survivors of Cyclone Giri which struck Burma Rakhine State in October.

Daw Thi May Oo, resident of Ohn Taw village, no longer has to walk miles each day for water thanks to Merlin and UK aid. Picture: Merlin
Daw Thi May Oo, resident of Ohn Taw village, no longer has to walk miles each day for water thanks to Merlin and UK aid. Picture: Merlin

Disaster strikes

Daw Thi May Oo has vivid memories of the flooding which hit the village of Ohn Taw 6 months ago.

“When Cyclone Giri struck our community on 22 October, the sea level rose up 10 feet and washed away everything we owned - our house, boat, fishing nets, animals, food and all our belongings. We had run to high ground near Aung Le Pyin village and watched all night as our homes were destroyed.” 

“The whole village was under water and coconut trees had fallen on the remaining houses. We were grateful for surviving, but everything was gone,” she says. 

“All I had remaining was my family but we had no food, no water and no place to sleep. It was hopeless. Our wells were flooded with seawater so we couldn’t use them. But Merlin has helped us to clean them out and has renovated them. The wells are only used for household use (cleaning and washing) but until they were cleaned, we couldn’t even use them for that.” 

Essential water

Merlin was one of a number of local and international non-governmental organisations supported by the UK government to bring much needed assistance to the survivors of Cyclone Giri which struck Burma Rakhine State in October.

“Merlin has provided us with 5 litres of treated drinking water per person every day since last December which means that I do not have to walk miles to collect drinking water each day,” says Daw Thi May Oo. 

“Just recently, Merlin has also given each household rainwater harvesting kits, so that we will have access to safe water from our roof when the rains come and we won’t have to walk a long distance to get drinking water. We are very grateful for the help that we have received from Merlin as it has made a big difference to our survival and recovery.”

Reaching those in need

With funding from DFID, Merlin targeted 26 of the worst-affected communities (21,348 people) in Myebon township, Rakhine State following the devastation wrought by Cyclone Giri.  They distributed:

  • 23,750 bottles of ‘Waterguard’ household water treatment chemicals capable of treating enough water for each household to cope through the dry season
  • 867 household rainwater harvesting kits enabling 3,500 beneficiaries to benefit from harvested rainwater once the rains started
  • 565,900 litres of treated water distributed to villages since December 2011 with currently 1,400 people living in five villages receiving 3l/day of treated drinking water.

Merlin also built a water treatment plant able to meet the water needs of up to 20,000 people per day during the height of the dry season starting this month. They constructed or renovated a total of 16 ponds, wells and springs providing water for 10,629 beneficiaries and reconstructed seven damaged school latrines benefiting about 2,000 schoolchildren.

Able to respond quickly

Paul Whittingham, head of DFID’s Burma office said:

“Cyclone Giri - and the suffering it caused to a quarter of a million people in Burma - went largely unnoticed by the outside world. But because the UK is one of the few donors based inside the country we were able to respond quickly, through the UN but also through local and international NGOs like Merlin.”

In March, DFID announced a significant scaling-up of UK aid to the people of Burma. The UK will spend an average of £46 million per year until 2015, no money will be given to the Burmese government. This assistance will prioritise health, education, livelihoods and civil society. Paul Whittingham Head of DFID Burma said: “We are committed to helping the people of Burma and we will use UK aid to lay the foundations for longer-term poverty reduction and change in the country.”

Published 5 May 2011