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Disaster Response Preparedness for Myanmar

In early May 2008, Cyclone Nargis, a Category 3 cyclone, struck the country. In the country’s worst natural disaster, 84,500 people were killed and nearly one-third of the population was affected. Total damages and losses were over $4 billion, equivalent to 21 percent of the country’s GDP in 2007.

Over the last decade, natural hazards have severely impacted the country’s population and economy. Myanmar is exposed to a range of natural hazards, including cyclones, earthquakes, floods, landslides, tsunamis, and volcanoes. These hazards are accompanied by high economic and social costs, with significant impact on the poor and most vulnerable. Annual expected losses from natural hazards are close to $185 million.

Myanmar has made progress on disaster risk management (DRM) and has established institutions and programs to strengthen disaster resilience. In 2013, the government enacted the Natural Disaster Management Law,with supporting disaster management rules issued in 2015. In 2016, the National Natural Disaster Management Committee was formed by the Cabinet. To further advance its DRM agenda, the Government of Myanmar is prioritizing; implementing integrated environmental and water resource management for enhanced disaster and climate resilience, applying a disaster risk-sensitive approach to the urban resilience and transport sectors and strengthening institutional capacity to lead and to manage disaster recovery. On February 20, the Launch Workshop for the Myanmar Southeast Asia

Disaster Risk Management Project, which will strengthen Myanmar’s disaster preparedness, was held, with national and local government officials reporting on implementation progress. The event was jointly organized by the Ministry of Planning and Finance and the Yangon City Development Committee, in collaboration with the Yangon Region Government and the World Bank.

Since its approval last year, key services have been contracted to improve the drainage system and selected public facilities in Yangon. Institutional arrangements have been set up; budget and work plans have been prepared; and training on procurement, financial and project management is ongoing. With the assistance of $ 116 million in financing from World Bank, the project supports the government’s efforts to reduce the impact of flooding, improve the resilience of selected public facilities against earthquakes in Yangon, and enhance the union government’s capacity to finance disaster response to emergencies across the country. Nearly half a million people are expected to benefit from the improved drainage systems, and the structural performance of selected public facilities in Yangon. Phyo Min Thein, Yangon Chief Minister, attended the project launch along with the Speaker of Yangon Region Parliament Tin Maung Tun, Mayor of Yangon Maung Maung Soe and other Ministers of Yangon Region Government, Director General of the Treasury Department Si Si Pyone, and World Bank Country Director for Myanmar, Cambodia and Lao PDR, Ellen Goldstein.

“As Yangon is rapidly growing, risk management solutions and planning need to be integrated into our efforts to improve services for the population,” said Phyo Min Thein. “Yangon faces high flood risk and is in an earthquakeprone area. The project investments in the city’s drainage system, public facilities, and critical infrastructure will help achieve our aim of delivering high quality public infrastructure and services in the city.” “With Myanmar being one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, and the threat of climate change increasing, this project will proactively help the country prevent and minimize risks so Myanmar is ready when a disaster strikes,” said Ellen Goldstein. “The World Bank looks forward to supporting Myanmar’s efforts to respond and recover quickly so that families are safe and can return to their daily lives soon after a disaster hits.”

The project financing includes $1 million grant from Japan’s Southeast Asia Disaster Risk Insurance Facility (SEADRIF), a multi-donor trust fund that will support the Ministry of Planning and Finance to manage and finance the response to future disasters. Myanmar is vulnerable to climate change, with predictions of floods and droughts becoming more frequent and intense. Temperatures, rainfall, and runoff are likely to increase, and dry periods during the monsoon season may occur. These changes will increase economic losses from natural hazards, particularly in the agricultural sector, which employs about 56 percent of the population.