Youth spring into action in wake of Myanmar’s floods

Youth spring into action in wake of Myanmar’s floods
Ko Win Tin Aung, a youth volunteer, delivers assistance to flood survivors in Ohn Pin Su Village, Ayeyawady Region. © UNFPA Myanmar/Benny Manser
  • 18 August 2015

AYEYAWADY, Myanmar – Over a million people have been critically affected by floods and landslides sweeping Myanmar. More than a hundred people have been killed, and downed bridges and washed-out roads have left some communities out of reach of aid.

Humanitarian responders are working around the clock to assist affected populations. Among them are young volunteers from the UNFPA-supported Youth Information Corner (YIC) programme, who are distributing relief goods, helping to bring mobile clinics to flood evacuees, and conducting health education sessions in temporary shelters.

Flood affected families wait for assistance. Over a million people in Myanmar have been affected by the disaster. © UNFPA Myanmar/Benny Manser

Critical hygiene care

Heavy monsoon rains began causing flooding and landslides in the last two weeks of July, conditions exacerbated by Cyclone Komen, which unleashed flash floods when it made landfall on 30 July. Vast swaths of the country have been affected. 

An estimated 300,000 households have been displaced by the crisis, and contaminated water is a major concern. UNFPA is working with its partners on the ground to protect and support the health of affected communities.

Dignity kits, which contain essential items for women’s and girls’ hygiene, including soap, sanitary pads and clothes, are being distributed to women and girls. UNFPA is also assessing the health situation, and is working with partners to provide clean delivery kits, containing the supplies needed to facilitate safe birth, even under emergency conditions.

Ma Tin Tin Myint, a youth volunteer with the UNFPA-supported Youth Information Corner programme, leads a discussion about reproductive health issues with flood survivors in Ayeyawady Region. © UNFPA Myanmar/Benny Manser

UNFPA is also working with its YIC volunteers to deliver assistance in hard-to-reach areas. UNFPA supports more than 70 YICs throughout the country, including many in flood-affected locations.

Many of the youth were themselves affected by the floods. But they did not complain.

"Sometimes we are so overwhelmed that we miss our meals, but we are glad to be of help. Our own homes were inundated by floods, but we do this to give hope to the flood victims," said Ma Tin Tin Myint, a member of the YIC in Sarmalauk Village, in the Ayeyawady Region.

Taking action

Ma Tin Tin was motivated to join YIC by her own personal tragedy. Her brother had been an active member before he died. "Before his death, my brother told me to join the group as it was doing noble deeds,” she said.

Through YIC, Ma Tin Tin and her peers received training in communication, leadership and management skills, as well as decision-making and teamwork. With these skills, they conduct health and education outreach activities. Because many of their efforts are coordinated with rural health centres, YIC volunteers were well positioned to support health staff in providing flood relief.

Daw Tin Tin Toe received a dignity kit and a health check-up in Ayeyawady Region. She said most of her belongings were submerged in the floods. © UNFPA Myanmar/Benny Manser

Ma Tin Tin, along with other YIC volunteers, UNFPA and the health ministry, delivered dignity kits by boat to affected women and girls in the area.

"We could not pack our belongings when the flood came,” Daw Tin Tin Toe, a flood survivor, told UNFPA. She says all of her personal belongings were submerged in the floodwaters.

Despite all she had been through, she said she was delighted to see the young volunteers pitching in the help their community. “In the past two weeks, no one came to help us,” she said. “Today, when these young people came, we were very happy."

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