Monday, September 7, 2009

A Roof Over Their Heads

The Irrawaddy News

DEDAYE, Irrawaddy Delta—Forty-two-year-old Khin Htay was promised a house within two or three months. Six months later, she has not heard anything more about it, far less receiving any building materials.

“We don’t feel safe whenever a strong wind blow through this makeshift house,” said Khin Htay, a mother of five from Dedaye Township in the Irrawaddy delta.

Young boys collect water from a fresh-water pond near Laputta Township in Irrawaddy delta. (Photo: Reuters)

Adding to her fears is the memory of losing her husband and seven-month-old daughter when Cyclone Nargis wreaked havoc on her village in May 2008.

“Where shall we all stay if another cyclone destroys our home?” she asked despairingly.

Khin Htay and her young family are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of cyclone survivors who are still living in inadequate shelters some 16 months after the disaster.
The worst natural disaster in the country’s modern history killed close to 140,000 people and severely affected over two million.

About 360,000 homes were destroyed outright by the cyclone, according to official data.

According to UN-HABITAT, which takes a leading role in rebuilding houses for the cyclone survivors, more than 450,000 people are in still dire need of shelter aid.

In a recent statement, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar [Burma] Bishow Parajuli said, "Up to 130,000 families remain exposed and are suffering under severe weather conditions due to a lack of sustainable shelter."

However, humanitarian agencies have claimed that a shortfall of funds has hampered their efforts in rebuilding adequate shelters for the cyclone victims.

According to UN-HABITAT it has received only one-third of its requested amount of funds to rebuild adequate shelters for the displaced survivors.

UN-HABITAT said it requested some US $150 million for repairs and reconstruction under the Post Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan (PONREPP). But only about $50 million has been received.

So far, humanitarian agencies have reportedly rebuilt about 25,000 houses. For its part, the Burmese military government claims to have built more than 10,000 houses to date, a very small percentage considering the magnitude of the crisis.

According to the UN, about 209,000 families have reportedly rebuilt their own homes with their own hands over the past year.

But while some families wait for housing materials, others expect housing material and new land.

In Mhawbi Village in Pyapon Township, some families have been told they will be given housing materials, but that they have to find their own land to build on.

“We very much thank the agencies for saying they will build houses for us,” an elderly man from the village said. “But how can we afford the land to build a house on when we don’t have any money?”

Burma Newscasts - A Roof Over Their Heads
7 September 2009

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