Post-disaster assessment in Myanmar highlights disproportionate impact on women

Due to a variety of factors, women and girls are especially vulnerable at times of crisis.

Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

Torrential rains and the onset of Cyclone Komen triggered severe and widespread floods and landslides in July and August 2015 across 12 out of 14 states and regions in Myanmar. Records show that an estimated 1.6 million individuals were temporarily displaced from their homes by the disaster, and 132 lost their lives. Women and girls were among the worst affected.

On 11 December 2015, U Nyan Tun, Vice President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and Chair of the National Natural Disaster Management Committee (NNDMC) launched the Post Disaster Floods and Landslides Needs Assessment (PFLNA) at the Hilton Hotel, Nay Pyi Taw. This assessment on damages, losses and needs was intended to support the development of a realistic recovery plan. Under the mandate provided by the NNDMC, the assessment that was undertaken by the World Bank, UN and EU covered 15 sectors, including gender as a crosscutting issue. It was conducted in close consultation with government, civil society, affected communities and the private sector.

UN Women, Myanmar and the World Bank led the collection, analysis, validation and interpretation of the gender chapter of the PFLNA together. According to Dr. Yin Yin Nwe, President’s Advisor and Chair of the Advisory Group to the NNDMC, “The chapter on gender was one among three others that was well-anchored in consultations with multiple stakeholders, including local NGOs.” Not only did gender constitute a stand-alone chapter, it was also mainstreamed into other sectors – agriculture, fisheries and livestock; banking and finance; health and education; housing, water and sanitation, electricity, and communications; as well as employment and livelihoods and social protection.

According to this gender assessment, women’s and girls’ priorities in a disaster differ in nature and degree from those of men and boys because their roles and statuses differ from — and are often secondary to — those of men and boys. As the chapter shows, pre-disaster vulnerabilities of women and girls are exacerbated during disaster, although they also display great resilience. Myanmar has more men than women, and a high proportion of female-headed households; one out of four of which were affected in the disaster.

Some of the key gender-based concerns that emerged are as follows: Age- and sex- disaggregated data were lacking across sectors; compared to men and boys, women and girls were at greater disadvantage and had lower recovery capacity (associated with lower incomes and loss of already-fewer productive assets); women had limited mobility and less access to employment and socioeconomic resources; they had higher food insecurity and malnutrition; they were subject to increased care work with fewer safety net resources, leading to debt; they experienced a high level of stress; they were subject to worsened privacy, safety and security; and their participation and decision-making in response and recovery was limited, especially at local levels.

This assessment shows that women and girls brought their capacities, knowledge and networks to bare on coping and recovery — assets that must be drawn on in recovery planning. Investing in women has multiplier effects, as women tend to use benefits accruing to them for families and communities.

“To optimize and sustain investment in recovery,” the assessment notes, “it is critical that women and their priorities be included in disaster assessment, response and recovery planning, and implementation — and it is especially critical that female-headed households be targeted.”