Rebuilding resilient communities after conflict and disaster in northern Rakhine

Rebuilding resilient communities after conflict and disaster in northern Rakhine

12/05/2016

Daw Thein Shwe’s house in Taung Ywar Ward appears to be leaning. The roof is patched together with tarpaulin and bamboo and slopes precariously over the single-storey structure. It looks unlikely to withstand a strong storm, let alone the impending monsoon rains. Reflecting on the torrential rains that struck the township of Buthidaung in July and August last year, Daw Thein Shwe expresses her desire to maintain the house. “I don’t know how the future weather conditions will be and so I want to improve the house,” she told FAO.

 

Taung Ywar Ward had the highest water levels in all of Buthidaung during the 2015 floods associated with Cyclone Komen, rising up to three feet and sweeping away precious food storage (mainly rice, potatoes and oil) as well as non-food items such as clothing. Most houses were damaged in some way, with fences destroyed and roofs caved in from fallen trees, and villagers report that some pigs and “a lot” of chickens were lost. Daw Thein Shwe’s household of five relies on her husband’s income as a casual labourer, but at 35 000MMK per week (around USD30) this hasn’t been enough to afford repairs.

As part of a project to help conflict- and flood-affected communities in northern Rakhine state, villagers like Daw Thein Shwe are receiving small livestock which they can rear and breed for additional income. “I am very happy to receive FAO’s assistance with this pig. I want to rear the pig for a long time and then be able to earn income to maintain my house,” she said.

“If sold at the right time, a pig can earn up to 250 000MMK, a significant income boost for these poor, rural households,” said Andrea Berloffa, Emergency Coordinator for FAO Myanmar. In addition to its vulnerability to natural disaster, Rakhine State suffers from inter-communal tensions and is still recovering from significant outbreaks of violence in 2012, with more than 100 000 people still displaced in camps across the state. Over one million Muslims, most of whom call themselves “Rohingya” but who the Government refers to as “Bengali”, have unresolved citizenship status, affecting their access to services and freedom of movement.

FAO, with funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund, is providing support to boost the livelihoods of 3 300 conflict- and flood-affected households (around 18 000 individuals) in both Muslim and Rakhine Buddhist communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships. Beneficiaries have received winter crop seeds to increase food availability and recover from losses felt after the floods last year, as well as small livestock (goats and pigs) which can increase income opportunities and the availability of animal protein. The latter is particularly urgent in Rakhine, where rates of Severe Acute Malnutrition are higher than the critical threshold identified by the World Health Organization.

This project is part of FAO’s broader emergency programme in Myanmar, which includes projects in Sagaing, Chin and Rakhine.  FAO has called for USD 12.1 million to provide assistance to 332 750 conflict- and flood-affected people under the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan for Myanmar. A further USD 7.6 million is urgently required to reach this total target population.