Myanmar is vulnerable to natural hazards including cyclones, earthquakes, floods and fire. In 2008 Cyclone Nargis hit the country and affected 2.4 million people and as recently as August 2015 Myanmar was hit by Cyclone Komen, that temporarily displaced an estimated 1.7 million people.
The country's climate is changing - temperatures are getting hotter and the monsoon season is getting shorter. This places communities, especially children, at increased risk from disasters.
Building disaster resilience is not an option, but is critical for protecting investment and ensuring the sustainability of development. Preparing for disasters is the best way to ensure that children and their communities know how to stay safe if a disaster strikes.
Plan International Myanmar's Disaster Risk Management programme aims to ensure that children and their families live in safe and resilient communities, and we work with communities to build a culture of safety and active participation in reducing the risks from disasters and climate change.
We are working with communities across Rakhine State which is one of the most disaster-prone parts of the country. Students are now able to identify threats to their safety, work with adults to mitigate these risks and understand how they can stay safe during and immediately after a disaster.
As cities continue to grow, the exposure of people's assets to hazards and new forms of risks due to rapid population growth, combined with inappropriate land-use plans, failure to observe building standard regulations, inadequate living conditions of the urban poor, poor sanitary conditions, etc. create daily risks on a small scale. If not well managed, cities can also become generators of new vulnerabilities, creating new forms of disaster risks.
Keeping in mind the urban disaster risks, we have also initiated Urban Disaster Resilience Building work both in schools and communities in Yangon since 2016, in close collaboration and coordination with key stakeholders including government departments, technical institutions, youth groups and CSOs.
Children have learned first aid and how to conduct search and rescue operations, and early warning systems have been implemented in schools so that communities can quickly evacuate if a disaster is approaching.
Ma Myo Thu is a leader of her school's search and rescue team. "I was sad that my school would flood every year during the rainy season and that we were not able to study. Now I realise why flooding happens and can educate my classmates and school with knowledge from my Search and Rescue training. I am so proud to be a leader of my team," she said.