Article By Thant Zin. Photos by members of ActionAid Myanmar Dry-Zone Team & Communication Team.
The floods of unprecedented scale wrecked havoc in various parts of Myanmar; affecting 12 States and Regions out of total 14. According to the confirmation by the government of Myanmar, more than 250,000 people have been affected with 69 deaths. These orange-alert level floods are the most devastating natural disaster in the country since Cyclone Nargis in 2008.
ActionAid’s experience during Cyclone Nargis led us to pioneered and adept in an approach named “Action Without Aid”, which allows the available local capacity to respond to disaster even when aid still unavailable..
Since the heavy torrential rains began to cause such tragedies, ActionAid Myanmar Staffs and Fellows (local youths who received trainings and empowerment from ActionAid Myanmar) and Fellow Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) were there in the ground. These aid-workers and fellows delivered essential commodities, including food and water, on door-to-door basics throughout the disaster-ravaged villages; led rescue operations; mobilized the relocation efforts, and did many more interventions to alleviate the adversity brought up by the floods; all by utilizing the local capacity including government support and businesses, despite the minimal funding.
Meanwhile, in the ActionAidMyanmar (AAM) country office, the Flood Emergency Response coordinating team was formed and mobilized. This team is composed of experienced dedicated AAM staffs from all units. It was set-up to closely monitor the situation and to provide assistances to the affected area in an effective and efficient manner and to collaborate together with the government and other aids-groups to address the flood problem.
One notable example of swift action can be seen in the dry-zone of central Myanmar where ActionAid has presence. In the dry-zone which encompasses a few administrative states, floods struck in 30th July 2015 with thousands of households in our project area suffering from it. However, by using the local capacity, ActionAid and various partners could initiate interventions as early as in 31st July in some affected areas, much to the relief of the affected poulace.
These efforts are well welcomed by the locals. Some of the villagers claimed ActionAidwas among first groups to deliver aids, while other villagers appreciated the AAM’s systematic way of delivering the reliefs and relocation efforts. Other stakeholders such as the local government expressed their delight too, with Government’s Administrators of various levels voicing their gratitude and appreciation in the way ActionAid operates in a decisive and swift manner and willingness for further cooperation.
While the swift action was obvious, it is the result of established practices of mobilizing the local resources and empowering local capacity by ActionAid Myanmar’s Fellowship Approach. Since we started working in the communities, ActionAid Fellows from each village were given extensive trainings to mobilize and work for the community in-hand with various service-providers, which proved to be a silver lining in such difficult times. Though suffering such a devastating blow, their spirits remained unbroken.
Considering the scale and nature of the disaster, it will still be a long way to fully-return to their usual ways of life, or even to get closer to it. However, with such attitudes from the fellows and their villagers, we can be sure that the betterment of the community is a very realistic goal. And ActionAid will be working hand-in-hand with these committed people throughout the process. Even now, relief efforts are getting intensified and even the remote and more-challenging-to-access areas in Chin State will be getting the aids. Preparedness in naturally disaster prone areas that has been free from recent floods was being intensified also.