On Saturday 31 May the WSPA disaster assessment and response (DART) team entered Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta, the low-lying region hardest hit by Cyclone Nargis.
It has been reported that 95 per cent of buildings in the Irrawaddy Delta area have been destroyed and that there are huge human casualties, feared to run into the hundreds of thousands.
For the survivors, draught animals represent future livelihoods and food security.
Delivering feed and veterinary aid
WSPA’s first shipment of emergency animal feed was delivered on Saturday as the team travelled from the capital Yangon to the Delta area to begin their assessment.
The WSPA vets were allowed full access, through multiple roadblocks, to the villages where animal need was most acute. Their ultimate destination was Laputta (Labutta), where the community has lost 90% of its animals.
Dr Ian Dacre, DART team leader, was able phone WSPA in London to tell us what the team were able to achieve over the weekend and share some observations on the effect of the cyclone on local people and animals:
On distributing food and the available veterinary facilities:
“The first place we stopped was one of the ministry veterinary departments. The house opposite was where… the vet lived; when the waves came through his wife and one of his two children both drowned. [At] the next village we got ready for distribution and again another veterinary facility had been destroyed.”
On aid coming from inside and outside Myanmar:
“There are 123 families in [this] village that are involved with livestock and 66 of them are going to get one animal which they will share... It will be oxen and bullocks… The government have bought about 600 and the FAO have about 1,000 or so… they are good condition working bullocks which are just what they need.”
On the determination to recover in Konyin Kone (pictured) where 1,200 people died when cyclone Nargis hit:
“It is amazing to see how quickly [the people] have been able to reconstruct their homes out of natural materials. I found out yesterday what the name Myanmar actually means. Myan means quick and mar means hard and that is what these resilient people are, quick and hard – strong.”
In the same village, the community lost all but 30 of its 2,000 buffalo and 20 of its 1,500 pigs. Almost all the chickens were wiped out.
The days to come
Dr Tim Myers, DART team member, confirmed on Sunday that the team were well and continuing their work in Laputta.
Ian Dacre was able to give a detailed audio report of his experiences in the Delta area on Monday 2 June 2008 (10.28 minutes).
Listen to all Ian's reports from the field at his Myanmar audio diary page.