Responding to monsoon flooding in Myanmar

Report
from Trócaire
Published on 04 Nov 2019 View Original

Garry Walsh

Devastating monsoon rains have caused flooding in Myanmar, causing extensive damage and forcing tens of thousands of people to leave their homes. Trócaire is supporting over 13,000 affected people with hygiene kits, essential basic items, water treatment and repairs to damaged homes.

As the water begins to subside, the devastation becomes clear.

Hundreds of houses have been damaged or destroyed, muddy fields are now devoid of crops, and village compounds are scattered with debris. Fresh water sources, such as natural streams and wells, have become unsafe to drink from.

This has happened before, and with an unpredictable changing climate, is likely to happen again next year.

In what is almost becoming an annual phenomenon, the monsoon rains have brought flooding to tens of thousands of people in Myanmar. The country is particularly prone to cyclones, storms and floods, which is being exacerbated by the impact of climate change.

This year’s monsoon rains have triggered floods in nine states and regions across Myanmar, causing extensive damage and forcing thousands of people to leave their homes.

The southern regions of Mon State and Tanintharyi Region have been particularly heavily hit, with huge areas of farmland and entire villages submerged. Over 48,000 people were displaced in July and August.

If the destruction caused by the flooding itself is not devastating enough for communities to cope with, disease can also spread following the floods. As the floods cause contamination of water sources, e-coli and other bacteria can easily spread after the flooding.

RESPONDING TO THE DAMAGE

Working with our local partner organisations JCSDO (Jeepyah Civil Society Development Organization), MWO (Mon Women’s Organisation) and ALARM (Advancing Life and Regenerating Motherland), Trócaire has responded to the flooding. Over 13,000 people are being assisted. This response wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of the Irish government through Irish Aid.

Family kits have been distributed to affected families, with mosquito nets, blankets, and kitchenware. Hygiene kits have also been given out, which contain soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, sanitary pads, underwear, and flip flops.

For some houses which have been damaged, we are supporting families with cash for repairs to their homes.

We are treating contaminated water in public wells and households using an innovative probiotic approach. Using probiotics can be safe and effective, and is more environmentally-friendly than using chlorine. Community leaders are also being trained up to respond and help spread the efforts to decontaminate and purify.

Education on hygiene practices is also key to prevent the spread of disease. As such we’re engaging affected communities with hygiene awareness sessions.

During these sessions, staff members, facilitators and young volunteers provide hygiene and sanitation information and facilitate group discussions. Role-play helps educate communities how to correctly use the hygiene materials. These sessions help minimise the spread of disease.

TAKING ACTION ON CLIMATE BREAKDOWN

As the planet warms, and climate breakdown causes extreme weather events like these floods, and other events such as cyclone Idai in Southern Africa earlier this year, Trócaire continues to work in the countries most affected by this global problem.

These countries have done little to contribute to the problem, yet are already experiencing its effects. We are responding with climate adaptation projects, preparing for emergencies, and responding with humanitarian assistance when disaster does strike, like these floods in Myanmar.

However, we all have a role to play in reducing our carbon footprint.

Trócaire has supported the global school strikes and argued for stronger climate action from our government at the UN Climate Summit last month.

For communities in Myanmar, climate change is already here. For these communities, and many more around the world, our governments need to urgently take action and step up our ambition on climate change.

Read more about our work in Myanmar.