A new road connects communities in Myanmar

People work on building a new road.
CONNECTING COMMUNITIES THROUGH A NEW ROAD. PHOTO: SHOBHNA DECLOITRE/UNDP

Villagers in the northern state of Kachin in Myanmar used to be stuck home for months when the monsoon season started.

“In past rainy seasons, the road which runs through our village got very boggy. Students and travelers from our village found it difficult to get to school and to work,” says Ma Sang Nan, one of the 52-persons team who helped restore the road and construct a rain water drain in her village of Tat Kone.

Highlights

  • A livelihoods and social cohesion project funded by Japan and Denmark reaches over 700,000 people in conflict-affected, poor and vulnerable communities in Myanmar.
  • More than 18 000 workdays were generated through cash for work schemes to improve small scale public infrastructure, benefiting over 8,000 households in Kachin State alone.
  • The project helps strengthen social cohesion by integrating persons displaced by internal conflict and host communities on initiatives benefiting the community as a whole.

Kachin has been at the epicenter of Myanmar’s decades-long civil war, and an estimated 113,000 persons have been affected by renewed fighting since 2012. As a result, the state has a higher poverty rate (28.6%) than the national average and faces huge challenges with regard to poor infrastructure, limited access to public and social services such as schools and hospitals, and lack of sustainable livelihood opportunities.

The road upgrade project in Tat Kone is part of a larger UNDP programme, “Improved Livelihoods and Social Cohesion project”, that covers 300 villages in 7 states of Myanmar, reaching over 700,000 people in conflict-affected, poor and vulnerable communities, in particular, ethnic minorities and women.

With funding from Japan and Denmark, and in partnership with local NGOs, UNDP provides social protection and capital assistance for agriculture, livestock and micro-enterprises; and supports quick-income opportunities through cash for work schemes.  Participants like Ma Nan are paid 3000-5000 kyats per day (around $US 5) to improve small scale public infrastructures such as roads, embankments, community halls and markets.

The project also seeks to strengthen social cohesion amongst communities by integrating established families and newcomers displaced by internal conflict on projects that benefit the community as a whole. Out of the 52 people who worked to build the road in Tat Kone, 21 were women, including 8 who settled in the village after being displaced from their community.

 “Men, women, young, old, displaced persons and host-communities worked as a team to make this possible. Through this road we can visit other villages and find new markets for our products.  Our children can go to school all year round. The rainy season will not be so much of a hindrance anymore,” says  U Bauk Naw, the administrator of Ngaw Chan village, where the infrastructure upgrade was identified as a key priority by the village development committee.

 So far, the project has been implemented in 42 villages in Kachin State, with infrastructure upgrades benefitting more than 8 000 households and close to 2 200 persons (of whom 733 are women) remunerated through the cash for work programme.

 “The road that you have built for yourselves is the road that will lead you to a better future. It serves your immediate needs and hopefully in the long run contributes to greater understanding and cooperation,” said UNDP Country Director, Toily Kurbanov.

 

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