In 2011, Myanmar was ranked most at-risk of the Asia-Pacific countries on OCHA’s Global Focus Model. The country is vulnerable to natural hazards including floods, landslides, cyclones and earthquakes. Unresolved ethnic tensions have displaced almost half a million people within and beyond Myanmar’s borders.
The country’s national economy, isolated by international sanctions, is one of the least developed in the world. Chronic poverty and poor basic services, especially in border areas, are significant challenges, as are access constraints and lack of reliable baseline data to support prioritization of needs.
In 2011, OCHA focused on supporting the Government’s efforts in emergency preparedness, response and advocacy. It also increased its support to humanitarian operations in the field. OCHA helped respond to several emergencies including an earthquake in Shan state in March, floods in the Dry Zone in October and instability that displaced thousands of people in Kachin state in June. During these crises, OCHA supported authorities at central and local levels in leading the response.
The establishment of a temporary office in Shan during the earthquake and of two new sub-offices in Kachin state demonstrated OCHA’s added value to humanitarian operations in the field. OCHA field staff helped strengthen field-based coordination mechanisms and advocacy efforts before, during and after emergencies. They achieved this by setting up coordination hubs, supporting information management and needs assessments, identifying priority needs and monitoring aid delivery.
OCHA promoted the use of a common assessment form during 2011. It was endorsed by the Humanitarian Country Team and used to collect critical information during emergencies in Shan and Kachin states and the Dry Zone.
At the request of the Government and humanitarian partners, OCHA supported contingency-planning activities, emergency preparedness measures and capacity-building for disaster management. For example, OCHA helped provide training for 300 Government officials in contingency planning, disaster preparedness and emergency response coordination. The Government also sought OCHA’s support in reviewing the Government’s disaster management curriculum and drafting a Disaster Management Law. This is expected to be finalized and presented to Parliament in 2012.
OCHA also worked to secure critical humanitarian financing by mobilizing emergency funds (including through the Central Emergency Response Fund), preparing emergency response plans and engaging with donors to support partners. For example, funding levels increased due to advocacy on behalf of local NGO partners that responded to the Shan earthquake and the emergency in Kachin state. This advocacy also led to a better understanding of the critical role these partners play in the field.
In 2011, OCHA’s advocacy efforts continued to expand humanitarian operations in Myanmar. For the first time, OCHA-supported advocacy resulted in humanitarian access to several conflict-affected areas of Kachin state where more than 50,000 people are displaced by violence.
The Government has reiterated its commitment to address ongoing conflicts, poverty reduction, basic service delivery and the plight of internally displaced people. OCHA continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure progress around displacement and the easing of limitations on providing humanitarian aid is felt at all levels, which are likely to be resolved in the medium to long term.
Given the real threat of medium- and large-scale natural disasters, OCHA will continue building on its collaboration with the Government and partners in emergency preparedness and response. Other priorities include supporting the Government’s efforts to prioritize needs-based humanitarian action in line with international standards; reviewing coordination mechanisms to boost the Government’s leadership role; supporting information management; and increasing OCHA’s support at local and central levels.