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Lessons Learnt of Local Humanitarian Organisations in Myanmar: A Focus on their Capacity to Respond to Emergency Situations

From the year 2000 and onward, natural disasters killed over 1.1 million people, affected over 2 billion, and a estimated cost of USD 1.3 trillion economically and the annual economic loss to disasters averaging over USD 100 million (USTT 2012). The Union of Myanmar is prone to several hazards, one of the worst occurrences was the Cyclone Nargis which struck the country in May 2008, with over 130,000 people killed, around 2.4 million severely affected and an estimated economic cost of damages and losses of over USD 4 billion (PONJA 2008). In addition, the country holds the record for the world痴 longest civil war – over 60 years, and the ongoing conflict between central government forces and ethnic Kachin troops has resulted in thousands of deaths ans over 100,000 displaced in northern part of Myanmar. Also the country has unceasing racial conflict between native Rakhine and stateless Rohinja people which has resulted in 147 deaths and over 110,000 displaced in western area (TNI 2013).

Given these challenges, the purpose of this research is to explore the experience, capacity and lessons learned of local Myanmar humanitarian organisations – both large and small-size Local Non-Governmental Organisations (LNGO’s), Faith Based Organisations (FBO’s) networks and Community Based Organisations (CBO’s) in responding to emergencies. A qualitative approach was taken, and semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with key persons and staff from the relevant local organisations.

The results showed that Myanmar has not only a long historical record of diverse local Civil Society organisations, that until recently oppressed by central government, but lately they have become effective actors involved in responding to emergencies the country has faced. Though successful in responding, challenges for local organisations remain in the form of access to financial resources, limited technical capacity, organisational internal systems and procedures, imbalanced power relations among international agencies, local groups and the government. However, despite these, it was found that the local organisations studied are carrying out a significant interventions helping their own people with their limited resources and have great potential to stand as leading players if they get proper support and space in the country’s crisis response.


Saw Min Naing (2013)


Permanent link to this article: http://kimmagedsc.ie/dissertation/myanmar-capacity-emergency/