Myanmar: How the community is changed by the social participation of persons with disabilities

Since 1999, AAR Japan has been engaging in a variety of activities to increase opportunities of social participation for persons with disabilities (PWDs)in Myanmar,for example,through vocational guidance as well as educational and employment support. AAR Japan has supported efforts led by the PWDs to deepen local people’s understanding of “disabilities” through the “Community Based Rehabilitation” approach in the suburb of Yangon since 2009. Resident staff Akemi KITA reports how the behaviors and mindsets of the local people have changed during the 5 years that AAR Japan has provided assistance to PWDs.

International staff Akemi KITA (right), listening to the conversations in a printing shop established by a PWDs group.


Typhoon Hitting the Philippines: Building Disaster-Resistant Housing on Your Own

The typhoon Yolanda (typhoon No.30 of 2013 in Japanese numbering) struck the Philippines on November 11, 2013.  AAR Japan dispatched an emergency support team to the devastated area and has since been engaged in supporting activities. 

Distributing house repair materials to 2,224 households 

In the Philippines, 1.14 million houses were either completely or partially destroyed by the typhoon Yolanda.  Victims were covering blown off roofs with plastic sheets or erecting tents to take shelter near their destroyed homes, and forced to live difficult lives.  Since December, 2013, AAR Japan prepared sets of repair materials for housing such as tin plates and nails, and distributed them to suffering families – especially those having persons with disabilities – amounting to a total of 2,224 households (approximately 11,000 people).
“Thanks a lot to the AAR support.  We shall share the learned techniques with the local people,” say the carpenters who participated in the training course for constructing disaster-resistant houses, standing side-by-side with Mr. Yuta Funakoshi of AAR (right). (April 30, 2014)


AAR Attends Third Review Conference of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention

Three staff attended Maputo Summit: (from right) Bashir BAASER from Afghanistan Office, Harumi KAWAGOE from Sudan Office, and Masumi HONDA from Tokyo Office (June 23, 2014)
From June 23 - 27, 2014, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (the Ottawa Treaty) Third Review Conference was held in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique (Maputo Summit). AAR Japan sent three representatives as members of the ICBL (International Campaign to Ban Landmines) to the conference.


Kenya: Efforts to ensure rural villagers have continued and secure access to clean water

From February to November in 2013, AAR Japan drilled wells and installed water supply equipment in five villages in Garissa County in the North Eastern Province of Kenya to allow villagers that had been affected by recurrent drought to obtain access to clean water. These efforts have lightened the burden on women and children fetching drinking water and has enabled some 5,200 villagers to live a life free from water deficiency even during the dry season. AAR Japan also formed Water Users’ Associations in each village and presented a workshop on sustainability to the villagers. Through the workshop, participants learnt how to use the installed water supply equipment properly, how to perform basic repairs, the collection of service fees from users to be used in the case of equipment failure, and the importance of keeping the equipment clean. Six months after the water supply equipment was installed, we visited the same villages to see how the villagers had been managing their facilities.

In Quabobey village, six months after the construction of the new well, the water users’ association continues to follow the management method promoted by AAR Japan’s workshop. AAR Japan resident staff member, Mr. Shin Suzuki, enjoys a photo with the villagers benefiting from the new well. (front row far left, May 19th, 2014).

We used to spend many hours fetching water necessary for daily life

The Tana River, Kenya’s longest river, is a primary source of water for many villages in Garissa County.  However, the Tana River often floods during the rainy season and consequently most villages were settled approximately 2-3 kilometers away from the river. Among those villages, fetching water is considered a task of the women and children and can take up to several hours per day. An adult woman will carry approximately 20 kilograms of water each time she fetches water from the river.

Mr. Daigo Takagi checking that the water supply equipment installed by AAR Japan is functioning properly. (Quabobey village, Dec 2nd, 2013).
AAR Japan built wells in five villages in Garissa County, each having the dual effect of reducing the burden of having to retrieve water from the river and providing the villagers with secure access to safe water. 
"Before, I used to walk 3kms to the river to fetch water twice a day, every morning and evening. Now we have the well, and my task has become much easier. Besides, well-water tastes better than river-water.” Ms. Rukia Hante (pictured left).

Villagers’ ingenuity “not to waste even a drop of water”

We periodically visit the villages where we built the wells to see, amongst other things, if the water supply facilities are being well managed and if the water users’ association is functioning well. On 19 May this year, we visited Quabobey village and were amazed by the ingenuity of the villagers. We were pleased to find that, based on the systems they learnt from AAR’s workshop, the association has been collecting and saving the service fees from users and allotting it for the repair of faucets and the stockade as needed. Another inspiring discovery was the initiative of the association to establish and cultivate a vegetable field around the well in order to not waste any water spilt whilst drawing. The spilt water is used in the vegetable field to grow vegetables that are sold at the market and all profits are allocated and kept for future repair works. 

A workshop for the water users’ association of Ture village, organized by AAR officer. (July 3rd, 2013).
Vegetable fields cultivated around the new well in Quabobey village utilizing spilled water for irrigation. (May 3rd, 2014).
On the same day, we visited Rahma village and found that the local water users’ association had installed a self-made fence of shrubs around the facility.  As nomads occupy a large proportion of the population in this area, keeping cows, goats, sheep and camels as livestock, prior to the construction of the fence, intrusion by livestock resulting in equipment failure and water pollution was common. We found that other villages had also constructed similar fences around their facilities to secure the safe water supply from similar hazards. 

Hygiene education reduces the risks of infectious disease

In addition to installing vital water supply equipment, such as wells, AAR Japan is working on installing toilets and providing hygiene education to rural villages in Garissa County of Kenya. We provide knowledge of hygiene and educate the villagers in basic hygienic practices, such as pre-meal and post-excretion hand washing, to reduce the risks of infectious disease being contracted and spreading.
※This program was supported by a grant from Japan Platform (JPF), in addition to your kind donations. Since January 2014, we have been conducting our activity with the support of Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects founded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Reporter (as of the date of the article) Mr. Shin SUZUKI, AAR Kenya resident staff. Mr. Suzuki worked in the AAR Japan Kabul office from 2005 to 2007. After working in the private sector, Mr. Suzuki returned to AAR Japan on Mar 2014 and has since been placed in Kenya. Mr. Suzuki is originally from Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan.


South Sudan Emergency Aid: Water Supply Facilities Completed at Refugee Camp

About 38,000 people have evacuated South Sudan, which has been mired in conflict since the end of last year, to the Kakuma refugee camp in neighboring Kenya (as of June 11th, 2014. UNHCR <United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees>).  AAR Japan has been conducting research and providing support at the Kakuma refugee camp since February this year. Resident Staff of AAR Japan South Sudan Office Daijo TSUCHIKAWA, who is engaged in the activities on the ground, reports:

Installing Water Pipe to Deliver Safe Water to the Camp

Because of continued heavy rain, the water tank truck became stuck on the muddy road before reaching the camp. (March 19th, 2014)


Myanmar: Landmine/UXO action Providing a safe and livable environment - even for persons with disabilities

Myanmar (Burma) is said to be one of the world's most heavily mine-contaminated countries.
In Karen state, which is in a particularly serious situation, Association for Aid and Relief Japan (AAR Japan) opened its office in Hpa-An, the state capital, in July 2013. Since then, we have been providing support for mine victims and developing teaching materials for landmine risk education.
This report is provided to you by Yoshio NAKAGAWA, from our Hpa-An office.

We have paved roads and reconstructed water tanks in Thit Sar Aye Myaing village in Karen state, Myanmar, where many landmine victims live. At the completion ceremony, residents celebrated in colorful ethnic costumes. Yumiko KAKUDA, one of our staff members, is pictured second from the left in the front row. (April 27, 2014)


Supporting Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) - Graduates of Vocational Training Schools

Offering vocational training to more than 1,200 PWDs for 15 years

In Myanmar, the superstition still persists among people that PWDs were born the way they were because they were sinful in their former lives. In Burmese, the official language of Myanmar, being handicapped has a connotation of “being unable to do anything”, and people tend to dismiss PWDs as unskilled. This explains why PWDs generally have no choice but to be dependent on their family members. As a matter of fact, family members have little or no interest on how to educate PWDs. In addition to these social and cultural factors in Myanmar, the limited number of social workers and limited budget has resulted in fewer opportunities for PWDs to get involved in their community.
The first batch of graduates singing and dancing at the graduation ceremony. The representative of the class said, “We would like to make the most of the skills we acquired in this school and contribute to the welfare of PWDs in our community.”  (April 9th, 2014)