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Slide 1

Rapid Response: does it undermineresilience?

The humanitarian response to Cyclone Nargis, Burma (3 May 2008)

Marianne [email protected]


This is an alternative title page with space for images.


How much, and what kind, of rapid response is enough? At what point does it overwhelm local coping strategies and undermine community resilience, networking and skilling?What does this case study of Burma tell us about the responsibility to protect (R2P)? How should the international political and humanitarian communities respond to aid refusal?

Slide for body text

What HappenedCyclone Nargis made landfall in Burma on 2-3 May 2008Category 4+ - Winds up to 240km hour Tidal surge of 3.4 metres over very low-lying Delta140,000 dead or missing, disproportionately women, children, elderlyOf estimated 7.35m people in affected areas, one third suffered severe loss.

3UN Real Time Evaluation noted that in terms of mortality, Nargis was one of the most severe cyclones in recorded global history. But most deaths were preventable lack of preparedness and DRR were the major disaster.

The Delta under water

4Source: Oxfam Report 2009 The Right to Survive. Note also the depletion of mangrove forests for rice paddy greatly increased vulnerability to tidal surge

What happenedMany millions displaced450,000 houses destroyedSevere physical and emotional trauma, and heightened vulnerability USD 1 billion direct material damage: foodstocks, livelihoods, infrastructureLonger term losses: human and social capital, personal savings, access to affordable credit

Junta Refuses Aid Generals say they have the situation in handRegime restricts dissemination of photographs and footage of Nargis destructionRegime refuses entry visas to most internatl aid workers, restricts delta accessUN orgs / INGOs with existing presence allowed to stay Save the Children note that they are soon allowed to travel unaccompanied to Delta



http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/brutal-regime-hides-behind-high-walls-and-others-glories/2007/09/27/1190486480892.html General Than Shwe (2007)8



The Political Fall-OutMyanmar Cyclone: Burma junta may be prosecuted over aid block (The Telegraph)Debate in the UN Security Council: British and French particularly adamant that force should be used if necessary to delivery aid to needyThe spectre of humanitarian intervention (Chapter VII) raised in the push for a rapid humanitarian response

Standing up to Regime Bullies

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6663361.stmGordon Brown - argued that Burmese regime was guilty of inhumane action (the language of international law applied in war crimes tribunals). Brown also said the UK would rule nothing out to get aid to the people who need it.


The ResponseScale of Nargiss impact approached that of the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004. But in Burma there were fewer than half the 200 or so aid actors that poured into Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka & other regions affected by the Tsunami. (Islamic Relief)Actual amount of aid hard to quantify noting regimes information given late and not reliable


The Early Response

Conflicting accounts of the international response:Andrew Kirkwood, Save the Children, Burma; and Richard Werly, journalist. Local response was large-scale and spontaneousmonastic, private sector, civil society orgs

Guardian UK Sunday 18 May 2008, Child survivors of Cyclone Nargis at a private aid centre in Laputta on the Irrawaddy Delta15

Rapid ResponseExample: Save the Children less than two weeks after the cyclone, reached more than 120,000 people forced out of their homes by the cyclone, including around 50,000 children - 90,000 people around Yangon and 30,000 in the Irrawaddy delta. And reaching around 15,000 more people each day. Much of this was delivered by local staff, and through partnering with local organisations.


The Response International 7 May: UN cluster system is established, issues a Flash Appeal for USD187m. 19 May: ASEAN FMs Meeting established ASEAN Humanitarian Task Force (Nargis)25 May: ASEAN-UN International Pledging Conference in Rangoon Burma then agrees to Chair Tri-Partite Core Group (TCG: ASEAN, UN, Burma)Donors insist on access, and assessments

17 Revised Appeal 41% funded by early September 08.

http://www.japanfocus.org/-donald_m_-seekins/2763; 18

Rapid ResponseASEAN Emergency Response Assessment Team (ERAT) 9-18 May 2008 was begun within 5 days of disasterAlmost all villages had some assistance within 2-3 weeks; remoter areas - a monthPost-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA), released 21 July 200832 Village Tract Assessments (VTA)8 Damage and Loss Assessments (DALA)

Evaluating the ResponseImmediate Official Response weak and badly handledBulk of immediate assistance was local (NGOs, local INGO staff, diaspora links; civic, private sector)Donor, INGO and UN agencies already present mobilisedOthers arrived later (SIDA, Oxfam, UNOCHA)

Evaluating the ResponseUNOCHA RealTime Evaluation found that the response had gone well not because of the international response but because of local efforts and a unique Burmese culture of sharing. It also found that no-one had died as a result of the poor regime response local effort had compensatedJohns Hopkins University Report found that the regime had stolen aid and thousands had died because of regime negligence

Whats missing in this picture?How much humanitarian aid did Burma receive?To what extent does the UN appeals process take into account local contribution?To what extent does the international humanitarian community protect and privilege local response efforts?Aid refusal what if its a despot in a very poor country that wed like to get rid of?

ObservationsODI Report finding (2012): The structures we have set up have moved us, as international aid actors, more and more away from the people...They have made the response not nimble enough, more risk averse, more constrained and less able to engage with the specificity of the local situation, where there may be initiatives which we could strengthen.Lesson: work with savvy local actors as much as possible


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19667956 Kim Aris protects his mother from a crush of people in Bagan 201125