Helping communities prepare for disasters. Part 1: the email exchange phase
Ines Smyth Senior Gender Adviser
7th Jun 2012
Next week, Senior Gender Adviser Ines Smyth will be in Myanmar working on a new approach to disaster preparation that focuses on capacity rather than their vulnerability. Right now she's still in Oxford and here gives us a glimpse into her work.
With disasters increasing in both scope and regularity worldwide, the need to work with others to support communities' efforts in preparing for such eventualities and minimising risks seems very urgent. This is certainly reflected in a new (DIPECHO funded) programme to increase resilience and reduce vulnerability in local communities and institutions that Oxfam in Myanmar is ready to implement, as part of a consortium that includes ActionAid, Malteser, HelpAge, Plan International, and UN Habitat.
The programme is exciting as it has at its core the idea that men and women, boys and girls and older men and women are disproportionately vulnerable to disasters, and the recognition that each group has very different but evident capacities. The emphasis is on capacity, given the determination with which individuals and communities reacted to the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008 and of other recent disasters.
Several staff from consortium partners will meet in Yangon, Myanmar, in mid-June to prepare and agree training and information, education and communication material to be used with communities in Rhakine State, Ayeyardwaddy, Thanintharyi and Sagaing Regions. Within Oxfam our preparations are currently under way with colleagues Kyie Soe Thu and Jessica Chaix in Yangon, via mail and Skype.
Long Skype conversations, strings of emails, drafting workshops, developing training material, agendas and powerpoints seem a long way from the ambitious and hopefully life-saving activities of the programme. But these mundane exchanges - cemented by the heroic efforts of other staff in booking flights, checking budgets, etc - are our initial building blocks towards helping to deliver a programme that truly reflects what men and women are already doing and magnify that. It is a good reminder there is nothing too small or unimportant in our work and of the reverse, that however
mundane our daily tasks, the combined efforts make a difference.
But the email exchange phase is nearly at an end as next week my Oxfam colleagues and I will at least be working in the same office, in Yangon. That's when some of the training phase will begin. More on planning and progress then - watch this space!