Youth volunteers enhance Myanmar’s community disaster resilience

Representatives from different volunteer and governmental organizations during the working sessions. Photo: Mina Iwamoto/ UNV 2016

The Government of Myanmar is taking steps towards making the country more disaster resilient, focusing on strengthening preparedness, early warning systems, mitigating risks, and of course, building community resilience.

In 2014, the Relief and Resettlement Department under the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, rolled out the Disaster Risk Reduction Youth Volunteer (DRRYV) Programme, which has benefited thousands of young volunteers from rural areas with basic trainings in disaster risk management (DRM). They are envisioned to be one of the main players at the local level, connecting their communities to local disaster risk management mechanism.

In order to strengthen this DRRYV Network and turn it into a fully operational DRR/M mechanism, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF, and UNV teamed up to support the Relief and Resettlement Department into drafting a comprehensive and inclusive DRRYV Network Strategy, which unlocks the full potential of youth volunteerism in disaster risk reduction.

This document provides the Government with a road map that will lay down the Network operationalization plan, sustainability mechanisms and linkages with existing institutional frameworks at national and sub-national levels. Furthermore, the three agencies joined forces in the implementation of a project funded by the UNV DRR Global Programme will pilot the implementation plan for the Network in three Regions - Mon, Rakhine and Ayeyarwady.

On 18th October, an extensive group of experts composed of Government representatives, UN agencies, civil society organizations (CSO), non-governmental organizations (NGO) joined the Consultation Workshop on the DRRYV Strategy to discuss and provide recommendations on the Strategy, moving one step closer to the goal. Many youth participated too, including five DRR Youth Volunteers and two volunteers from the ASEAN Youth Network.

As U Ko Ko Naing, Director General of the Relief and Resettlement Department, said “Government and Departments cannot work alone to address disaster risk management issues. We need the support of all stakeholders.”

A number of relevant issues were raised and discussed during the workshop, signalizing the DRRYV Network’s large potential in awakening major stakeholders’ interests and commitment, especially when underrepresented groups such as youth are represented.

“Young people are often seriously affected when disasters strike and can face severe difficulties in coping with unexpected and traumatic interruptions to their lives. Despite this, youth are also the very people who can teach their communities how to reduce the risks and impact of disasters,” rightly pointed out by Peter Batchelor, UNDP Country Director, in his closing remarks to the workshop.

Many challenges remain ahead, but UN Volunteers stands ready to support the Government in their efforts towards building a more resilient Myanmar while including further volunteerism considerations into Community-based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) approaches.