01/02/2012 – In January 2012, a small team of ECHO field officers travelled to the Magway ‘dry zones’ to see the impact of aid allocated to communities affected by flash floods three months earlier. The flooding had destroyed houses, crops and killed the livestock of these agricultural communities. They have now rebounded quickly by being involved in the process of deciding what they needed most…
Yangon, Burma/Myanmar – In late October 2011, the central regions of Burma/Myanmar experienced a week of unseasonably strong rains resulting in a series of flash floods. Dozens of villages along the river banks in the affected areas of Pauk and Seikphyu townships, known as the “Dry Zone” due to the arid nature of the local climate, were badly affected. Houses were washed away and livelihoods devastated with livestock killed and many fields inundated.
The European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) reacted quickly by allocating €390,000 for urgent humanitarian assistance provided by two partners, Oxfam-UK and Save the Children UK. Survivors of the floods received hygiene kits, ceramic water filters and hygiene promotion.
However, more notable in this particular project was the distribution of cash grants to the affected households, allowing beneficiaries to decide for themselves what they needed most. Christophe Reltien, Head of ECHO’s Yangon office who had just returned from the affected areas explained: “Providing cash to the beneficiaries allows us to intervene much quicker than if we only distribute aid items. Beneficiaries also feel empowered as they can decide for themselves what their needs are. Local markets are supported and livelihoods recover quickly.”
Most villagers used their funds to buy seeds and fertilizer to replant their crops which will allow them to harvest this April, as they had planned before the floods. Livestock was bought and houses repaired or rebuilt in safer locations. Some were even able to use these funds to start their own small village stalls allowing them to improve their family’s incomes. The humanitarian aid has therefore not only assisted these impoverished communities overcome the losses caused by the floods; it has given them new hope for a better life for themselves and their children.
”I can now sell vegetables which helps me look after my family and send my children to school” Ma Khin Mar Saw, a 43 year old divorcee with 5 children recounts proudly. “I don’t want to live on donations. I want to earn an income and provide for my family, and I believe that my dream of my own small grocery shop will come true one day.”
ECHO has provided over €27 million in humanitarian aid to Burma/Myanmar in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, the Commission has already allocated€12.5 million for projects to be implemented by partners such as international NGOs, the UN and the Red Cross.
The Commission’s humanitarian priority in the country is to assist the civilian victims of the protracted conflict, particularly in the border areas. In Northern Rakhine State, ECHO is continuing to provide assistance to marginalised Muslim communities, who have little or no access to social services and where malnutrition and lack of health facilities are wide-spread, particularly among children. The EC also supports the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in running an orthopedic centre in Kayin state, providing care to victims of anti-personnel mines.
Story and photos: Mathias Eick
European Commission,DG Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), European Commission