Preparing for Disasters in Myanmar
A new programme, Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED), is set to help 300,000 people in Myanmar cope with climate extremes and disasters. BRACED, one of the largest resilience programmes in the world, is an alliance of six organisations, Action Aid, World Vision, Myanmar Environment Institute, BBC Media Action and UN Habitat, it’s led by Plan International and supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
The programme will run from January 2015 to December 2017 and will prioritise women and children as key drivers of community resilience and development. It will support communities to find appropriate ways of meeting their needs in the face of disasters and climate change.
Situated along the Bay of Bengal on the east coast of Myanmar, one of the villages we work in receives 95 per cent of its annual rainfall during the monsoon period from May to September. Farmers in the village are reliant on this rainfall to grow rice during the monsoon season. However higher intensity rains combined with high tides and coastal flooding have been threatening their paddy crops in recent years, bringing saline water into their fields. Further to this, the community has been experiencing warmer and drier hot seasons affecting the availability of drinking water in the village ponds.
Another village, in the central dry zone of central Myanmar, has also been facing unpredictable rainfall and water scarcity. The village also suffers from high salinity of many of the newly dug water wells. As a result, the community is finding it increasingly difficult to access sufficient drinking water and water for irrigation during the dry months.
The BRACED programme is piloting a Community Resilience Assessment and Action Handbook in communities across different climatic zones of Myanmar. The Resilience Assessment identifies the underlying drivers of vulnerability in communities and specifies what climate extremes and disasters the community is exposed to and how different people (men, women, boys and girls) are affected by understanding the different sensitivities within the community.
The piloting work in the two villages has highlighted the need for better access to climate and weather information to enable community decision making for resilience. Improving communities’ access to accurate climate and weather information will help them diversify their livelihoods options, prepare better for disasters such as flooding by protecting their assets on time and/or adjusting their seasonal planting to coincide with the rainfall pattern.
Using weather data
The BRACED Myanmar Alliance has partnered with the Regional Integrated Multi Hazard Early Warning Systems (RIMES) and the Myanmar Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH) to review historical data from weather stations to assess the return periods of extreme events and develop weather and climate profiles for the BRACED target townships. RIMES and DMH facilitated training for BRACED field staff on how to integrate climate and weather information into community resilience assessments. The programme will support communities to develop evidence based resilience action plans to address climate extreme events. The Action Handbook provides guidance on how to use different tools and techniques to understand hazards, vulnerabilities and capacities with which to design resilience actions.
The case for canoes
As a result of the resilience assessment, BRACED Alliance target communities have started identifying key resilience measures including support for construction of rowing boats in Mawlamyine Township that has been hit by recent severe flooding across Myanmar. Access to boats can save lives during floods and improve access to water and food for communities during these events.
The assessment will now be rolled out across eight townships of Myanmar and various resilience strengthening activities implemented across the 155 BRACED villages.