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Page last updated at 07:46 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 08:46 UK

Nargis one year on: Road building

Reconstruction after a natural disaster is a major challenge for any country - but there are few places less prepared than the isolated, desperately poor nation of Burma.

Roads provide a vital lifeline for deliveries of building materials, food and water. The Red Cross is one of dozens of aid agencies working in Burma to help remote communities rebuild their infrastructure.

Local villagers in Kyakliatt build a new road (Copyright: Red Cross)
Workers earn the equivalent of $2 per day (Copyright: Red Cross)

The infrastructure in the south was rudimentary at best before the cyclone, and many roads were simply washed away.

Building a new one is hot and dirty work. The job is done by hand, with wet mud lifted up and relayed from person to person down the human chain.

In Kyaiklat, villagers are placing, shaping and stamping thousands of clumps of mud. Gradually an elevated walkway begins to take shape that will connect the village's boat landing with the school a mile away.

The road will take a couple of weeks to dry out under the hot sun, but once set it will provide a safe path for pupils, away from the river and snake-infested paddy fields.

The local community is responsible for deciding on their most pressing needs, and also select the workers - those who are most in need of an income.

The workers are usually single breadwinners, members of large families or people taking care of elderly or disabled relatives.

Local villager Myint Khin (Copyright: Red Cross)
Myint Khin is working to feed her six children (Copyright: Red Cross)

They earn the equivalent of $2 per day (£1.35) for the duration of the project, which usually lasts 15-25 days.

After a year with no or very limited opportunities to make any income, it is welcome.

"I will use the money to keep my children in school and to improve the roof on our house," says Myint Khin, the mother-of-six who is living in a bamboo shack by the river.

She and her family were not wealthy before the cyclone, but they managed.

"We had enough food, we worked hard, but we did not have to struggle every day. Now even food is a problem and a worry for us," she says.



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