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In cyclone-ravaged Myanmar, a little bit of rice goes a long way

Nine-year-old Ko Oo and his family lost their home in Cyclone Nargis and lived in a rice mill with other villagers until World Vision arrived with relief supplies. Serious challenges remain for survivors of this fierce storm.

May 2008

Ko Oo carries a blue tarpaulin distributed with other items to his family by World Vision relief workers following the devastation of Cyclone Nargis that struck Myanmar in early May.
Ko Oo carries a blue tarpaulin distributed with other items to his family by World Vision relief workers following the devastation of Cyclone Nargis that struck Myanmar in early May.
Photo ©2008 World Vision staff
Ko Oo's face crinkled up like dried leaves when he overheard a group of adults talking about another cyclone. The 9-year-old boy clearly remembered the first storm that washed away his home.

"One is enough," said the little boy, a fresh wave of fear washing over his face.

World Vision, with the cooperation of local community members, is reaching out to those who survived the storm but still require urgent assistance in the delta region. For these people, a glimmer of hope exists.

'I was like a drowned rat'

Cyclone Nargis brought more than enough troubles for the tiny delta community where Ko Oo grew up. At first, the winds came in from the east, tearing into Ko Oo's village. Then the western winds and surging water crested through the area. The wake of the storm left nearly 78,000 people dead; tens of thousands of villagers remain missing.

Our response

Read the latest updates on World Vision's relief and recovery efforts following Myanmar's devastating cyclone on May 2.

Ko Oo remembers that night vividly.

"The winds blew down our house. The water had already reached up to my uncle's chest when he picked me up and ran toward the rice mill," said Ko Oo. "I was like a drowned rat, and I was shaking with cold and hunger."

That rice mill, located on the bank of a river, saved more than 100 villagers that night, and the owner began providing rice for every troubled family who found shelter there.

"The meals were nothing more than plain rice, but they were the most delicious meals I've ever eaten in my whole life," said Ko Oo's mom, Daw Htay.

A struggle for survival

For two weeks, Ko Oo and his family lived in the rice mill with the other villagers, but it quickly became apparent that the rice mill owner wouldn't be able to continue providing rice for every family. Daw Htay said the village elders started worrying about how they would be able to feed everyone.

"Some families moved out. Other adults tried to travel north to bigger cities to find jobs," explained Daw Htay. "We had no seeds or cows left, and the saltwater flooded our rice paddy fields."

When the storm left, it took everything with it. There was nothing left for Ko Oo.
In the days after the storm, the whole village spread out over the paddy fields, mangroves, and streams to recover whatever items they could find.

"I managed to find some clothes. Some are mine, but some aren't," Ko Oo said with a smile.

The aftermath

A World Vision staff member helps deliver water to families in the wake of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.
A World Vision staff member helps deliver water to families in the wake of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.
Photo ©2008 World Vision staff

Before the storm, Ko Oo lived with his mother and grandfather in a tiny hut. His father had left them when Ko Oo was barely a month old. Nargis destroyed Ko Oo's home and took the few possessions he and his mother had kept there — some rice and seeds, a cow, clothing, kitchen utensils, and Ko Oo's favorite schoolbooks.

But even if Ko Oo could have saved his books, he had no school left to attend. It, too, had disappeared in the storm.

News eventually reached the village that a group of people had come to help them. As a crowd gathered near the home of the village leader, a team of World Vision aid workers handed out some rice and water. The rice mill owner spoke to the aid workers and volunteered his boat to help distribute additional goods.

Relief, but struggles remain

Villagers walked and paddled by homemade canoes to reach the distribution site. World Vision had brought 50 bags of rice, more than 100 water buckets, and kits for each household with tarpaulins, a mosquito net, a blanket, and some clothes.

"I want to thank the boss who gave us this stuff," said Ko Oo of the distribution. To him, and many of the other villagers, only a "boss" like the rice mill owner could provide relief like this to his community.

Ko Oo and his family were lucky to survive the storm, but they are still struggling to stay alive. They join hundreds of thousands of survivors across the region that survived the storm but are now living with hunger, sickness, and uncertainty about their future.

Learn more

>> Read the latest updates on World Vision's response to the deadly cyclone in Myanmar.

Three ways you can help

>> Please pray for the survivors of the devastating cyclone that struck Myanmar on May 2, including Ko Oo and his family, who continue to struggle in the aftermath of the storm. Pray for aid agencies like World Vision, who are working to deliver desperately needed aid to affected children and families.
>> Donate now to help World Vision deliver emergency relief to survivors of the Myanmar cyclone. Your gift can help provide life-saving items like food, water, blankets, shelter, and cooking supplies.
>> Give monthly to help World Vision deliver emergency aid to children and families in the wake of disasters around the world, like the recent cyclone in Myanmar.

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