Participants from ten countries across Asia developed and exchanged ideas about disaster management in a three day workshop in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma). Y Care International’s Lizz Harrison describes the workshop run in partnership with the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs.

Asia is one of the most disaster prone regions in the world. Between 2001 and 2010, around 62 per cent of worldwide deaths from natural disasters were in Asia. In this period alone we saw Cylone Nargis strike Myanmar in 2008, the huge floods of 2010 in Pakistan, and last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan. These three disasters alone killed over 160,000 people and affected a further 23 million people.

YMCA participants from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

Since 1985 Y Care International has supported YMCAs around the world to mobilise their local communities to respond to disasters and counter the impact of future disasters. We recently supported the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs to run a Disaster Management Workshop in Myanmar (Burma); a three day workshop involving 24 participants from YMCAs across Asia.

Using imagination to plan for disaster

Pablito from Phillipines YMCA presenting his group’s problem tree for a flood.

YMCA members started the workshop by considering the disasters which impact their countries and designing emergency response activities in response to a practical exercise involving a fictional disaster. As well as developing strategies for disaster response, participants from Japan, Sri Lanka, and Thailand simply shared the valuable lessons they’ve learnt from previous emergencies.

Members from the YMCAs in Indonesia and the Asia Pacific Alliance, also discussed their programmes which are working to reduce the risk of flooding and other hazards in their region.

Pablito from Philippines YMCA said, “The Disaster Management Workshop in Yangon has given us a great and meaningful experience in which we gained new insights to improve our programmes.” Pablito hopes to share what he has learnt with local YMCAs throughout the Philippines. Jeni, from a local YMCA in Indonesia added that she also felt confident in sharing what she has learnt with her colleagues at the YMCA.

Learning how to reduce the impact of disasters

The participants moved on to learn about activities that can reduce the impact of disasters in the future, such as setting up systems monitoring rainfall to support early warning systems, training in first aid and swimming, in addition to search and rescue procedures.

Jeni (middle), Makassar YMCA, Indonesia working on a group task with participants from Myanmar, Japan and Sri Lanka YMCAs.

These simple actions are crucial to reducing the risk of future disasters, along with raising awareness and increasing disaster preparedness in their communities, which the YMCA movement in Asia will be pivotal in making this happen.

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Lizz HarrisonDisaster Risk Reduction and Emergencies Advisor