Protecting communities against climate change is critical to ensure they can withstand these weather extremes and can recover more quickly from disasters.
Rakhine State is one of the most disaster-affected and poorest states in Myanmar. Since Cyclone Komen caused flooding across the state in August 2015, communities are struggling with water rationing and food insecurity and are inadequately prepared to deal with future shocks.
Plan International Myanmar is working with children and their communities to become more resilient to climate change by supporting the creation of 70 School Disaster Management Committees in Rakhine State. In these groups, children learn what they can do to mitigate the effects of a changing climate both at school and at homes.
Students Take the Lead
“As the climate changes we will have problems in this village with water shortages and droughts. This will increase the number of people who have bad health. After joining the School Disaster Management Committee we understand more about climate change adaptation and how we can mitigate it in our community,” explains Soe Min Htun from Tae Mauk village.
Fourteen year old Soe Min Htun is passionate about working in his school nursery, and after joining his School Disaster Management Committee, he has learnt how to grow vegetables and maintain his school nursery.
“I’m a member of the plantation committee, and it’s our job to plant and water the seeds and to weed the garden and do basic maintenance. I enjoy working outside and watching the plants grow.”
“The biggest challenge for us is flooding. Our school is located near the mountains, and water runs down the mountains and reaches our knees, so we can only plant for a few months of the year,” he explains.
As members of the disaster management committee, Soe Min Htun and his classmates are responsible for raising an alarm if a disaster strikes, or is coming, so that people can get to safety.
“We have a school evacuation plan and we know if a flood happens we need to move to the monastery, which is located on higher ground,” Soe Min Htun explains. “We also have to help people with a disability to get to safety, as they can’t move as fast as other people. When there’s a disaster we ring a bell three times and tell people to evacuate using the megaphone.”
“We listen to the radio and get information about disasters from our teachers, the newspaper and from Plan International staff.”
The students have also been trained in first aid and search and rescue, so they know how to respond after a disaster strikes, and can assist those who require immediate assistance.
“We haven’t had a real disaster yet, so we haven’t had to use these skills. But we are ready is a disaster occurs.”
To date, Plan International Myanmar and partner the Lanthit Foundation has supported more than 1000 students to create and join School Disaster Management Committees. Members have received training on performing search and rescues, first aid, early warning systems, tree planting and climate change awareness.
By identifying and developing localized solutions to reduce the impacts of climate change, children can apply these tools in their homes and share their knowledge with the wider community.