By Dr Jessica Mercer
Myanmar’s rural population are extremely vulnerable given their low human development and high dependence upon natural resources for their livelihoods (including agriculture, fisheries and forestry). This has led to environmental degradation including deforestation and poor land use management practices, diminishing water sources and high rates of food insecurity and sickness etc. These pre-existing vulnerabilities combined with the large number of hazards affecting Myanmar including cyclones, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, storm surges, droughts and landslides have resulted in a high risk rural society. In addition, climate change and its associated impacts are already, and will likely continue to exacerbate the situation further through more frequent, intense and widespread extreme hazard events including cyclones, floods and droughts, and through increased temperatures, rainfall variability and sea level rises.
Myanmar has taken steps to addressing risk to hazards including climate change at the national level through the development of Myanmar’s Action Plan on Disaster Risk Reduction (MAPDRR) and the National Adaptation Program of Action on Climate Change (NAPA). However, in many cases rural communities are either not aware or have not yet benefited from the policies, strategies and actions outlined in these two documents. Communities are also those best placed to identify strategies and solutions to their problems as they are at the front line of hazard impact. It is therefore essential that urgent action is taken at the local level in partnership with communities, government, civil society and other stakeholders to implement actions identified in the NAPA and MAPDRR and increase the resilience of rural communities to hazards including climate change.
This Handbook outlines a process whereby Malteser International staff and their partners can work in partnership with rural communities and local governments to address risk to hazards including climate change and increase community resilience. Firstly the Handbook outlines hazards, their associated impacts and sources of vulnerabilities facing rural communities in Myanmar. It then provides example actions and measures for inclusive disaster risk management and climate change adaptation at the community, township and state level. The Handbook then presents the case for an integrated approach to resilience building which embeds climate change adaptation strategies within a disaster risk management approach. The steps and tools for this approach are then described, before outlining how community resilience plans should be integrated into development plans at township and state level.
These are adapted from UNISDR’s (2009) definitions and include:
Risk is the combination of the likelihood of an event occurring and its negative consequences.
Hazard is a potentially damaging event, phenomenon or activity that may cause loss of life, injury, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage. They can be natural or human induced, rapid onset or slow inset.
Vulnerability is the characteristics and circumstances of a community including human, social, physical, economic, political and environmental factors that make it susceptible to the damaging effects of a hazard. It therefore differs between individuals, households and communities.
Capacity is the combination of all the strengths, attributes and resources available within a community, society or organization that can be used to anticipate, cope with and respond to a hazard or hazards.
Disaster is a serious disruption to a community which involves widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts and overwhelms the ability of a community to cope using its own resources.
Disaster Risk Management (DRM) aims to avoid, lessen or transfer the negative effects of hazards through activities and measures for prevention, preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery.
Climate Change is a change in the climate that persists for decades or longer, arising from either natural causes or human activity.
Adaptation means avoiding or reducing vulnerability to the changes we are, and will continue to experience including adapting to climate related hazards and changing conditions e.g. fluctuating temperatures and rainfall.
Resilience is the ability of countries, governments, communities and households to resist, absorb, accommodate to and recover from the effects of a hazard and adapt to longer term changes in a timely and efficient manner.