Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Soe Soe, Myanmar: "Life is totally bleak"

OUTKWIN, 29 July 2008 (Relief-web-IRIN) - Almost three months since Cyclone Nargis struck southern Myanmar - leaving nearly 140,000 dead or missing - many storm-affected people lack basic necessities of food and shelter.

In the village of Outkwin, Pyapon Township, deep inside Myanmar's badly affected Ayeyarwady Delta, one such survivor, Soe Soe, 28, told IRIN about the hardship she faces, as well as the birth of her son, named after the storm.

"That night I went into labour in a small bamboo, thatched house on the banks of the Pyapon River to deliver my first child. But as the wind roared, my husband and I struggled outside only to see our home destroyed right before our very eyes.

"As the rain poured down and the water began to reach my chest, my husband lifted me on to some floating debris. As I lay there, the labour pains became so painful I began to scream. I needed help.

"Finally, among the broken pieces of wood I gave birth around six in the morning, but almost died in the process. I had lost so much blood. Both my husband and the woman who had helped me deliver thought I was gone. But a single hope kept me hanging on - that my son needed me.

"After the cyclone, I thought the worst was over. But finally I understood that the worst of our hardship - bringing our lives back to where they were - had only just begun.

"We could not rebuild our home. We have neither money to buy materials, nor assistance to build. If my neighbour hadn't had the compassion to share her makeshift hut with us, we would have been left to live in a displaced persons camp. My neighbour collected material from what was left of her own house to build this place. Now, my son Nargis and I have been living here with four other families. My husband, a fisherman, has been away at sea for two months and has yet to return.

"I hope he comes back soon. I have so many debts to pay back and my son needs medical treatment.

"For medical fees, I had to borrow some money from a local money-lender at a high interest rate - 30 percent per month.

"But there are no choices here. You do what you need to do to survive. Not just for my son's medical bills, but also food. Occasionally, the local authorities bring rice to us, but it's never enough. I still need to buy some rice, as well as vegetables and other things for cooking.

"Of course, I know I shouldn't be borrowing money at such high interest rates, but I don't know what else to do. I feel I should thank her for allowing me to borrow the money given I have nothing to offer her in collateral.

"My husband earns just $30 a month and our debts far exceed that now.

"Sometimes, I wonder what the future holds. Right now life is totally bleak."


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