Recently I spent a couple of weeks in Myanmar, working for Arche Nova, a german emergency relief organization. As a temporary Regional Programme Coordinator I supported the local staff in drafting a programme and budget for the Arche’s activities over the next few years. As I had to explain and discuss our proposal with various governmental officials of all states we want to work in, I had to travel to places, that you otherwise probably wouldn’t visit so easily.
I was lucky to see some amazing places and to meet many amazing people and talk to quite a few different NGOs, UN representatives as well as Myanmar Officials. Besides the Arche itself I was very impressed with the work of ActionAid and Oxfam, who have a big office in Yangon.
Arche Nova has been active in Myanmar since 2008 – after the Cyclone Nargis hit the southern coastal areas in 2008 Arche Nova was amongst the first responders. Arche Nova largely focuses on working with trusted local partners and thereby is very often able to respond quickly on a local level.
In the immediate aftermath of the Cyclone the Arche distributed food, shelter materials and so-called NFI (non-food items) such as Hygiene Kits in affected villages. In line with its general focus it also supported villages in re-establishing their water reservoirs and improving their water-saving capacities (e.g. by water tanks) in an attempt to be prepared for further droughts or floods.
In the years since Arche Nova has strengthened its connection in the countries and has intensified its work in the country, from the regularly flooded Irrawaddy Delta in the South, the Rakhine State in the far west with ethnic and religious conflicts to the Northern Shan State, with armed unrest and more than 100.000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), refugees. Wikipedia states:
In October 2012 the number of ongoing conflicts in Burma included the Kachin conflict, between the Kachin Independence Army and the government; a civil war between the Rohingya Muslims, and the government and non-government groups in Arakan State; and a conflict between the Shan, Lahu and Karen minority groups, and the government in the eastern half of the country.
Currently we were looking into our plans for the next years – as usual in humanitarian aid this largely depends on the funds that you can raise. Here in Myanmar an additional complication is the complicated bureaucracy, and the fact that none of the rules may still apply two months from now – or that all the people in charge of certain sectors my be exchanged by others.
A good starting point to learn about current humanitarian efforts in Myanmar presents MIMU, the Myanmar Information Management Unit, that attempts to coordinate all information available to Humanitarian Helpers. MIMU has some excellent maps.