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Myanmar one month on: helping children rebuild

Myanmar one month on: helping children rebuild their lives

As families affected by Cyclone Nargis continue their struggle to recover from its devastating effects, Save the Children, one of the biggest aid agencies operating in Myanmar, is focusing its attention on getting children back to school.

"Education is vital and becomes even more important in the aftermath of an emergency when families are trying hard to regain some sense of normal life for their children," says Country Director Andrew Kirkwood. "Schools are a safe place for children, allowing them to be with others, to play and to begin dealing with the trauma they have experienced.

"From our experience, education is too frequently under-funded and under-recognised in an emergency response. Investment in education after an emergency is an investment in a child's recovery and the best way to improve the life of affected children and young people."

Hundreds of schools were damaged or destroyed by Cyclone Nargis and much needs to be done to rebuild Myanmar's education system. Schools in the affected areas are beginning to re-open and it is vital that further work starts now to rebuild the country's education system.

Damaged schools must be made safe before children can return. In the meantime, Save the Children will be working to get some form of school lessons up and running as soon as possible and considering various options, such as lessons under canvas.

Save the Children is repairing 32 schools and providing education supplies for 15,000 children in Pyapon and Dedaye in the eastern delta region and in Yangon. We are working on another 40 schools in Ngapudaw in the western delta region. We have also trained a team of local education staff who are being deployed in the delta areas.

Children are more vulnerable after an emergency as their lives have been turned upside down and the safety and security provided by their homes and villages has often disappeared. School protects children from further harm that may follow a natural disaster, such as the risk of trafficking or child labour.

Save the Children looks to introduce lessons on reducing the risks associated with disasters to help children to understand the risks they face and how to deal with them.

Andrew Adds: "Teaching a child what to do if they should face a disaster in the future reduces their fear that this will happen again and better prepares them. Simple things can make all the difference."

One month after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar, Save the Children is getting aid through to the worst-affected delta areas and has reached over 280,000 people including 70,000 children.

We are providing food, clean water, shelter equipment, household items and school kits. Save the Children has also set up child-friendly spaces in camps across the affected areas. These provide children with a safe place to play to help them deal with the trauma they have experienced. The child-friendly spaces also help trained Save the Children staff to identify and support children who have been separated from their parents by the disaster.

Save the Children is also providing health services through the operations of a floating clinic and several other mobile clinics.

Andrew Says: "Because we operated in Myanmar before the cyclone, we were able to provide immediate support to the affected communities. Nevertheless, we urgently need to scale up our response to reach more of the surviving children and families and deliver what we know they need. Lack of food and shelter, access to clean water, education as well as being separated from parents are among those issues still being faced by children in the remote delta areas."


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