Cyclone Nargis - May 2008 - Myanmar

Funds allocated:
US$ 350 000

Affected population:
130 000 dead or missing and 19 350 injured

The emergency

On 2-3 May 2008, Cyclone Nargis rampaged through 47 townships of the Ayeyarwady and Yangon divisions of Myanmar, with winds at 160 kph and 15 hours of torrential rain. The storm left more than 130 000 dead or missing and 19 350 injured according to official figures – one of the worst natural disasters in the Region.

Funds allocated

A total of US$ 350 000 – the maximum allowed under SEARHEF regulations – was allocated. Of this amount, US$ 175 000 was released as per policy, within 24 hours of an official request by the WHO Representative to Myanmar.

Child in one of the many temples used as shelters
Child in one of the many temples used as shelters

How it made a difference

The cyclone blew away houses, tore down trees and ripped off roofs – including those of some health centres, rendering many non-functional just when their services were most needed. Vital lifelines for the community, such as village ponds, the main source of fresh water were contaminated by sea water that surged inland. Stagnant pools of water, ideal for breeding mosquitoes, added to the risk of malaria and dengue. The thousands rendered homeless had little protection.

Procuring essential medicines

Within hours of the emergency, SEARHEF enabled the health sector in Myanmar to procure hundreds of tonnes of basic medicines and equipment to treat the sick and injured, including antibiotics, emergency medical kits, bandages and surgical equipment. These potentially saved thousands of lives.

Health staff mobility

The funds were also used to mobilize health workers from other parts of the country to serve health clinics in the affected areas.

Safe water

Chlorine tablets and bleaching powder were procured to purify water supply. Consequently, although some water-borne diseases were reported, there were no major outbreaks.

Preventing vector-borne diseases

Fogging machines and insecticide-treated bednets helped in protecting the affected people from vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue.

Protecting against snakebites

Snake anti-venom was also purchased, as the risk of snakebites increased for those exposed to the elements by the cyclone.

SEARHEF thus covered the Myanmar Ministry of Health’s needs for the affected population, weeks ahead of the bulk funding mechanisms of the United Nations, such as the Flash Appeal and CERF.