One ASEAN One Response

By Wai Wai Lin

The Republic of the Union of Myanmar is one of the largest countries in Southeast Asia, with a land area of 676,578 square kilometres. Due to its geographical location, Myanmar is at risk of natural disasters, including cyclones, earthquakes, floods, landslides, etc. Being one of the most natural disaster-prone countries in the region, it is fundamental for Myanmar to strengthen her capacity of disaster preparedness and management to build a safer and more resilient community where people thrive and can withstand the onslaught of disasters and the adverse effects of climate change.
Myanmar often experiences the rising frequency and intensity of disasters, including major disasters such as the 2008 Cyclone Nargis, nationwide floods in 2015, and flood and landslide in 2019. On 14 and 15 May 2023, Myanmar was affected by extremely severe Cyclone Mocha that claimed the lives of 148 people, injured 132 people, and caused 277,0111 buildings, including homes, schools, hospitals, and religious places. The calamity had struck mainly the Rakhine State and had a lesser impact in Chin State, Magway, and Sagaing regions.

National Response to Cyclone Mocha
In view of preparedness measures, the Myanmar Government has taken disaster preparedness measures and managed to mitigate the impacts of cyclones quite dramatically due to systematic preparation before a disaster occurs. On 6 May 2023, the National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC) called for an emergency meeting. It tasked the 12 working committees and Tatmadaw for all-of-government disaster response in coordination with the Region and State Disaster Management Bodies. the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) also has been activated and operationalized for preparedness, emergency responses and rehabilitation since 8 May 2023.
The government’s solid commitments to achieve faster response, mobilize more resources, recovery, and rehabilitation is leading towards recovery with the “Build Back Better” principle, resulting in progress in the reconstruction of health sector facilities (now at 90 per cent), basic education facilities (now at 95 per cent) and higher education facilities (now at 95 per cent). The telecommunication network coverage in Rakhine has also restored 99.92 per cent of its services, and recovery of electricity is now 100 per cent completed in the urban areas in Sittway, Ponnagyun, Rathedaung, Pauktaw, Minpya, and Kyauttaw townships as of 31 July 2023.

One ASEAN, One Response
Given the priority of the “One ASEAN, One Response” principle, two days before the cyclone made landfall on 12 May 2023, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement coordinated a meeting between the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) and ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre).
As reducing disaster risks is one of the top priorities of ASEAN, the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) sets as a policy backbone for the ASEAN Member States to enhance their collective efforts in reducing disaster risks and responding to disasters in the region.
Myanmar government has welcomed ASEAN’s assistance for the cyclone-affected communities. ASEAN has facilitated the assistance from ASEAN people to the people in the region affected by the cyclone at an early date. The AHA Centre has prepared to deliver relief items from the Disaster Emergency Logistic System for ASEAN (DELSA) Regional Warehouse in Malaysia by air and sea.
ASEAN has mobilized ten batches of humanitarian support for Myanmar worth more than 1.6 million US dollars through the AHA Centre. The relief items mobilized to Myanmar from the AHA Centre include non-food items such as shelters, shelter toolkits, water filtration systems, family kits and hygiene kits, and these items have been distributed to the cyclone-affected communities.

The AHA Centre also sent out an In-Country Liaison Team with four members to support the National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC) in conducting needs and damage assessments. AHA Centre had activated an online information-sharing platform to open a communication channel between Jakarta’s Emergency Operations Centre and Myanmar’s in-country liaison team. It is happy to note that the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN ERAT) successfully conducted needs assessments in Sittway, Rathedaung, Ponnagyun and Kyautaw townships in Rakhine State, which was mainly affected by cyclone Mocha from 21 to 26 May 2023.
To ensure an effective, timely response, the role of the ASEAN Secretary-General as the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator (SG-AHAC) was activated in early June to mobilize funding resources and promote strategic level coordination.
Mocha is the second devastating impact on Myanmar after the 2008 Cyclone Nargis. During Cyclone Nargis, ASEAN supported disaster relief efforts and delivery of humanitarian assistance as a large-skill operation. Based on the collective efforts of Nargis lessons, ASEAN has operationalized the ASEAN-led coordinating mechanism and established the AHA Centre in November 2011 to facilitate cooperation and disaster management coordination amongst ASEAN Member States. The AHA Centre has built upon ASEAN’s pivotal role during the response to Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008; since then, ASEAN mechanisms have consistently facilitated and catalyzed significant regional initiatives in disaster management and humanitarian assistance. Establishing the AHA Centre is a remarkable achievement and an important milestone in the history of ASEAN over the past 56 years.
Our region has a high risk of disaster; at the same time, these unfortunate events have also advanced our collective efforts, disaster-resilient, expanded our preparedness to save lives and bound us together under the spirit of One ASEAN One Response.
As a citizen of Myanmar, it is an honour to express our heartfelt gratitude to the peoples of ASEAN by this article on this auspicious anniversary day. The timely assistance from the ASEAN through AHA Centre is a heartwarming gesture from the community which cares for and shares with one other.

1 As of 12 July 2023 of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement

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