Habitat for Humanity (HFH)’s involvement in Myanmar arose after Cyclone Nargis struck on 2 May 2008. Some 145,000 people were reported to have perished and more than 50,000 others were listed as missing in one of the worst storms in decades to affect the country. Damage was estimated at USD 10 billion. In July 2008, international non-government organization World Concern started an integrated multi-sector disaster recovery programme in 30 villages in Labutta township, in the devastated Ayeyarwaddy delta, 200 km southwest of the former capital Yangon. HFH became one of World Concern’s partners in a phased programme to facilitate early recovery and restore access to food, water, shelter, income and healthcare.
Myanmar is among the poorest countries in Asia with 1 in 4 people living below the national poverty line. Most of the poor live in rural areas which also tend to be affected by civil conflicts or natural disasters such as forest fires, landslides, floods and storm surges. A 2011 joint survey by UNICEF and the Myanmar government in 24 townships showed that more than 60% of the population has access to improved water and sanitation facilities. However, just over 1 in 10 persons handled water safely before drinking while 85% of the population still defecated in open areas.
Myanmar is among the poorest countries in Asia with 1 in 4 people living below the national poverty line.
Since January 2014, HFH and its partner World Concern have been working in 11 villages to improve 965 families’ health through water and sanitation facilities, such as wells, water points and latrines as well as two rural health centers. Local communities are involved in raising personal hygiene standards. Families make decisions to build their own sanitation facilities. In addition, HFH has built a cyclone shelter to reduce the risks from future disasters. The projects are supported by Nissan and HFH Australia.
HFH currently works with World Concern in 26 villages in Myanmar through two new projects that began in March 2015. In Mon state, an estimated 6,330 people in 14 villages will benefit from clean water and improved sanitation by June 2016. In the Ayeyarwady delta region, about 5,000 people in 12 villages will gain access to improved sanitation and clean water as well as a cyclone shelter which will double up as a school when there are no disasters. This project will end in December 2015.
In Mon state and the Ayeyarwady delta region, the lack of clean water drains families’ limited incomes on buying water. Women and children also have to walk longer distances to fetch water from another village. With support from HFH Australia, wells are being constructed to facilitate water supply.
In response to the devastating Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, HFH and World Concern built and repaired more than 1,700 basic houses in 18 communities in the Ayeyarwady delta. Habitat houses used strengthened timber-frames and were built on lightweight concrete stilts. Walls and floors were made from woven bamboo, and roofs were fitted with galvanized iron sheets. Each house came with a latrine and water catchment system. HFH also helped to supervise the construction of jetties and the repair of roads through a cash-for-work programme funded by World Concern.
Daw Lae is happy with the changes in her family’s life after Habitat for Humanity and World Concern installed water facilities and conducted training.
Daw Lae, a housewife, and her husband U San Myint, a laborer, and their three children live in Phar Pain village. Their village is about 64 kilometers from Kyeik Hto town in Mon state. When work is available in the orchards, U San Myint can earn between 2,500 and 3,000 kyats (USD 2.50 to 3.00) a day.
Like other villagers, Daw Lae and her family face the problems with the lack of adequate water supply and the practice of open defecation. She often has to spend the family’s meager income on medicine when her family members come down with diarrhea, skin infections and other waterborne diseases.
Daw Lae is happy with the changes in her family’s life after HFH and World Concern installed water facilities and conducted training. She managed to save money to buy two piglets and chicken, and started to grow vegetables in her home garden. Her children’s health has also improved.