Saturday, August 15, 2015

A child’s eye on Cyclone Komen

By Thiha Htun
Than Than Aye in her damaged home in Kha Ye Myaing Village, Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State
©UNICEF Myanmar/2015/Thiha Htun
Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State, Myanmar – 12 August 2015:  Ten-year-old Than Than Aye experienced first-hand the horrors of Cyclone Komen on 30 July and is living amongst the aftermath. The young student stays with her parents, two elder sisters and younger brother in Kha Ye Myaing village, Maungdaw Township, one of the hardest-hit by the strong winds and flooding. Many people in Than Than Aye’s village have lost their homes.
“The wind was really strong and wild. I was shivering with fright and held onto my family members tightly. I watched as my friends’ houses collapsed and part of our own house fell down too. A wall was torn off,” recounts Than Than Aye.
UNICEF’s health and nutrition officer Thiha Htun met Than Than Aye while out with his team assessing the flood damage, especially in hard-to-reach villages.
Than Than Aye’s family continues to live in their house but have not been able to make any repairs due to limited resources. Tarpaulins are used to protect Than Than Aye and her siblings from the continuing rains.
“I lost my school uniforms; they blew away in the wind. Fortunately my textbooks were not destroyed. The water pump and toilet got damaged so now I have to go quite far to fetch the water for the house. These days my family uses an outdoor space as an alternative toilet.”
In Kha Ye Myaing, villagers whose houses survived intact opened their homes to others whose dwellings were damaged or destroyed. Poor and with limited space in their own small bamboo and wood houses, these supportive families are now experiencing difficulties continuing to host the affected families.
UNICEF has been delivering safe water to children and families in Rakhine, as after the cyclone, seawater inundated many ponds. Now when families are seeking to slowly restore their lives, UNICEF continues to deliver water treatment tablets and hygiene kits to help prevent waterborne diseases.
Like her home, Than Than Aye’s school was damaged in the storm and is now closed. Than Than Aye hopes that her school will re-open soon so she can continue her studies and reach her dream of becoming a teacher and an actress.
“I only need two or three new school uniforms and a school bag,” enthuses Than Than Aye.
UNICEF is working closely with the Rakhine Health and Education Departments to restore access to urgently needed health services and to repair damaged schools, so children can return to classes and regain a sense of normality.

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