As local and civil society groups coordinate to rush aid to victims caught up in floods, the Myanmar government has played down criticism that it was under prepared for the disaster.
YANGON: International aid efforts are being accelerated to help flood victims in Myanmar as hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by massive flooding in the north of the country.
In Yangon, locals are also doing their part in various fundraising efforts with homemakers, students and technicians among ordinary Myanmar citizens taking it upon themselves to help those affected by the floods. The volunteers say images of destroyed homes and lost lives have left a deep impression on them.
“We are sad for them, so we decided to help,” said Myint Zu, a fundraiser. “After three days, our target is to collect around US$6,000 for flood victims. If we achieve our goal, we will buy some clothes and medicine and food and water.”
Aside from individuals, organisations such as private companies and schools are mobilising themselves to collect funds for the flood victims. This goes to show how the social movement momentum is taking off in Myanmar.
And this comes as no surprise given how Myanmar was ranked number one in 2014 in the World Giving Index by the Charitable Aid Foundation America for being the most generous in the world.
Much of the aid effort by locals have been organised via social media such as Facebook. Some however, have questioned the accountability of such fundraising while others worry the floods may be used to make political gains for the upcoming elections.
“What we’re more worried is the current disaster will be politicised – either by the current government or by other political parties,” Kyaw Thu, executive director of Paung Ku, a local civil society group. “This is a humanitarian disaster and there is no need to politicise the situation.”
Many Myanmar civil societies are organising their own fundraising campaigns to complement the government’s efforts. The authorities recently admitted that their response to the flood crisis has been weak. But they believe they have improved in their disaster response capabilities since their experience with Cyclone Nargis in 2008.
“I disagree that the government is uncoordinated,” said Kyi Thar, Director, Yangon Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Ministry. “From the start of the flooding until now, we have been cooperating with civil society organisations and people.”
He added: “Based on the lessons learnt and lack of preparedness during Cyclone Nargis, we are now able to do more for the people and be more effective in the future.”
Countries such as Japan and China have already contributed money and relief items to help the flood victims. More countries and companies are expected to chip in after Myanmar publicly called for international assistance.