The arrival of the 2015 monsoon has brought unprecedented misery to Myanmar’s rural population. Intense rains have lashed the country’s western regions, officials reporting that hundreds of people have been killed and a further one million displaced by the record flooding.

Drinking water supplies are contaminated, power cut, and telephone lines severed across the country. The continuing rains and sheer volume of water has made it difficult for aid agencies to assess the situation, let alone deliver aid to where it is desperately needed.

As the flood waters begin to recede horror stories have filtered down to Yangon. Mud - two metres high - has choked villages, destroying possessions and making it near impossible for locals to return to their homes. In Hakha city in Chin State landslides have destroyed 700 homes and left 5,000 people homeless after the relentless rains turned
the city’s soils into a soupy mess.

U Htoo Soe from Magway told The Angus McDonald Trust: “My family’s rice fields have all been destroyed. There is no way for them to make any money this year or feed themselves.”

In the capital Yangon, which has remained relatively dry, young Burmese have mobilised to raise funds for victims. Throughout the streets groups sing songs and collect money from passers-by. At each set of traffic lights they hold out plastic bags between cars, gathering any donations they can.

As I sit in a small teahouse, drenched in sweat and with a grimace on my face after a walk of just a few blocks, a group of these chirpy volunteers wander up carrying a large sign in English and Burmese imploring people to give a little for those stuck in the flood-affected regions, their smiling faces making a mockery of my poor efforts.

Yangon native Zin Naing Linn Tun told me that “local NGOs use Facebook to gather the youth who already have a strong desire to volunteer”. He adds that the government "does not have the resources to help all of those that are in need, particularly in the remote areas.”

Ordinary Burmese have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to date, in a country where the average wage is only around five dollars per day. The Angus McDonald Trust believes it is community initiatives such as these which are the most effective vehicle for change. We will continue to support our local partners throughout this difficult period and assist them where we can to deliver relief to flood victims. Our fundraiser Burmese Nights will raise funds for flood victims in Myanmar, and is our inaugural Burmese dinner club: cocktails, food and dancing, in aid of our friends in Myanmar. Please do think of coming along: Islington Metalworks, London, at 7pm on Thursday 10th September 2015.

AuthorAlex Zubrzycki