Myanmar is exposed to a range of natural hazards, including cyclones, floods, earthquakes, storm surges, landslides and droughts. The Global Climate Risk Index 2015 cites the country as being - together with Honduras and Haiti – one of the nations hardest hit by natural hazards in the last two decades and where more disaster events are likely to occur in the near future.
Myanmar’s vulnerability to hazards is compounded by socio-economic factors including widespread poverty, poor infrastructure and civil conflict. The combination of hazard vulnerability and low capacity makes Myanmar the “most at-risk country” in Asia-Pacific according to the InfoRM model.
By far the most devastating natural disaster in Myanmar’s history, cyclone Nargis tore through the Delta region in May 2008, affecting 2.4 million people and claiming the lives of 135,000. The disaster acted as a wake-up call, galvanising the government and other actors into taking measures to prevent, mitigate and prepare for disasters. Since then, a number of steps have been taken towards addressing the country’s exposure to natural hazards.
Myanmar endorsed the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) in 2005 and its successor, the Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030, in 2015. The country is also a signatory to the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER), 2009, the first legally-binding HFA-related instrument in the world.
In 2009, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement (MSWRR) published the Myanmar Action Plan on Disaster Risk Reduction 2009-2015 (MAPDRR), outlining 65 projects intended ‘to make Myanmar Safer and more Resilient against Natural Hazards, thus Protecting Lives, Livelihood and Developmental Gains’. The Action Plan is currently in the process of being revised to align with the commitments of the Sendai Framework. The Natural Disaster Management Law was adopted in July 2013, with the accompanying Disaster Management Rules endorsed in July 2015.
Despite these steps, significant challenges remain in ensuring communities are resilient to disasters. The Views from the Frontline (VFL) 2013 survey process, designed to ascertain local level perceptions of progress on the HFA, highlighted limited awareness of and training on disasters and disaster risk of government, communities and civil society organizations as a major barrier.
Additional impediments included limited resources (financial, human, material) for disaster risk reduction, weak infrastructure (mainly transportation and communication systems), insufficient resources for information dissemination, weak coordination among civil society organizations and between civil society organzations and govern ment, and limited trust and conflicting interests of key stakeholders.