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Myanmar/Burma: "There is ability in disability"

U Khin Maung participating in inclusive disaster risk reduction training as a member of the 'early warning task force'. ©ACF

Myanmar/Burma is no stranger to a wide variety of natural hazards, ranging from floods, cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, landslides to tsunamis. Sadly, these have increased impacts on the most vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and people with disabilities. Funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), the Myanmar Consortium for Community Resilience, together with Action against Hunger and others, has developed inclusive disaster risk reduction approaches. Their aim is to encourage the participation of people with disabilities in disaster risk reduction activities in six high-risk regions, including the coastal state of Rakhine. This will enhance their capacity to prepare for potential natural hazards and manage disaster risk. 

Rita Petralba, Action against Hunger, @ACF_France

“I am very interested!” These were the words of U Khin Maung when we asked him about how he feels to be a part of our disaster risk reduction project.

For almost ten years, U Khin Maung has endured life’s difficulties in the Bumay neighbourhood of Sittwe township, on the west coast of Myanmar/Burma, with his wife and seven children – all this aggravated by his visual impairment.

Despite the challenges, U Khin Maung is lively and energetic. He feels proud about his work in the furniture industry in the Middle East for 12 years, and that his daughter is now employed in Malaysia. He suffered from a severe case of malaria when he returned to Myanmar, which impaired his sight. Now, at 52 years old, his left eye has gone totally blind, and his right eye partially so, while he suffers moderate facial paralysis.

With the help of his youngest son, U Khin Maung walks from his house to the community school or mosque so that he can participate in the disaster risk reduction project activities. “I was invited by the community leader in the project inception workshop and became very interested with the project activities."

"Now, I am happy to be a part of the Disaster Management Committee. Thank you very much for this opportunity.”- U Khin Maung

U Khin Maung is enthusiastic about joining the ‘disaster management committee’. He successfully volunteered to be a member of the ‘task force on early warning’ and he is glad to be given this opportunity despite his disabilities.

He is expecting to learn more about his role and responsibilities in the next activities of the project: “I hope to learn more about the early warning alert colours and their meanings, and how I can help disseminate information to my community. I am very willing to attend more capacity-building activities to gain more knowledge.”

When we asked him about what he thinks of persons with disabilities being involved in disaster risk reduction activities in the community, he said “If a disaster happens, everybody is affected. It is not only few individuals but the whole community that can be impacted. So everyone needs to help in preparing for disasters. We need to be included because we can also help our community even if we have disabilities.”

The Myanmar Consortium for Community Resilience is a group of several local and international non-governmental organisations, established with the support of the European Commission’s disaster preparedness programme, which aims to reduce the impact of disasters on vulnerable communities living in key disaster-prone regions across the world. Members include ActionAid, Action for Social Aid, Action against Hunger, HelpAge International, Young Women’s Christian Association, Oxfam, Plan, UN-Habitat and Social Policy and Poverty Research Group.

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