Myanmar: Local staff at the heart of humanitarian response

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Supporting the emerging humanitarian sector

Myanmar is vulnerable to both natural disaster and conflict - but it’s only very recently that the international humanitarian community has been able to reach the areas where assistance is most needed.

"Local staff and organisations are often first to respond," explains Samir Maleh, a RedR Associate Trainer and aid worker who’s been based in Myanmar for more than three years. "But the history of humanitarian work here is very short, and there is a desperate need for training and support."

RedR has been operating in Myanmar since mid-2015, providing local staff with a set of skills that are essential for anyone starting out in humanitarian work. 

"The training went beyond my expectations!"

In late 2016, RedR ran a series of tailor-made courses for the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in Yangon and in Rakhine State, where inter-communal conflict has forced tens of thousands of people - mainly from the Muslim Rohingya minority - from their homes. Most of them are living in camps, in appalling conditions, and without access to basic services.

Min Htut is a Deputy Programme Manager with DRC in Rakhine. He attended RedR’s ‘Humanitarian Essentials’ training, along with 'Managing Projects in Emergencies'.

"I knew the training was going to be ‘interactive’ but my expectations were quite low in this respect," he remembers. "I didn’t expect we’d be doing this interesting and active scenario, working with a limited budget and within a tight timeframe. When we’re doing these things in real life we may have a month or two to complete our tasks. But here, we had to finish everything within a day! So the training went beyond my expectations.

"Since the training, we have got better at coordinating and sharing information, within our teams and across departments," says Min Htut. "Our coordination is better, and we work better as a team. The result is that we are able to provide assistance at the right time and in the right place, and this makes us more effective."

The DRC Rakhine team. Min Htut is second from left.
The DRC Rakhine team. Min Htut is second from left.

From principles to practice

Min Htut continues: "The 'Humanitarian Essentials' training was very very interesting, especially learning about the background of the humanitarian system, and the different actors and organisations: the birth of the ICRC, the consequences of the Second World War, the lessons learned throughout history, international law, human rights law, international humanitarian law . . . And it was all shown in a concise, accessible way, which was remarkable. And also we talked about why we started to help people."

"They [the team] were really jazzed after the training," agrees Elizabeth Hallinan, DRC's Head of Office in Rakhine State. "I think it was helpful for them to put words to values and concepts that they all knew by intuition and were familiar with, but hadn’t articulated in these terms. It was good for them to be able to connect their personal experience to something bigger."