Monday, 14 September 2015

In Myanmar, education helps build a joint future

Thu Zar Moe (right) studies in a classroom at Thea Chaung displacement camp
Hlaing Hlaing Oo (left) studies at Mingan School, not far from the camp
© UNICEF Myanmar/2015/Thame
Rakhine State is one of the poorest and most isolated parts of Myanmar, and suffers from complex humanitarian needs and unaddressed development needs. Already marked by a high rate of poverty, the socioeconomic situation in Rakhine further deteriorated in 2012 following the outbreak of violence between majority Buddhist and minority Muslim communities, which displaced many Muslims who were relocated in controlled camps.

The floods that hit Myanmar in July and August this year have exacerbated these problems, with no regard for the lines that have divided these communities for so long. Children from both communities – in camps and villages – have felt the impact on their education.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Myanmar: fishermen at sunset, balloons over Bagan

Vendors wearing traditional longyis at a weekend market in Yangon
© Andy Brown/Myanmar 2014
In the two years since I first visited Burma, now increasingly called Myanmar, much has changed but much remains the same. Construction of the new Myanmar is proceeding apace in Yangon. Cranes and half-built skyscrapers litter the skyline, coffee shops are popping up along busy main roads, and young people are beginning to adopt western fashion.

But outside the capital, life goes on much as it has for the past several centuries. Here, roads deteriorate to earth tracks, towns and villages are largely blacked out after dark, monks collect alms in copper bowls at first light, both men and women wear traditional ‘longyi’ skirts, and the bicycle remains a common form of transport.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

People of Banglumphu sois

© Andy Brown/Thailand/2014
Over the last few months, I’ve been exploring the backstreets or ‘small sois’ of Banglumphu, where the UNICEF office is based. One of the things I love about Bangkok is this maze of alleys, just wide enough for a motorbike to get down, that exist a few blocks back from the main roads. Here, the din of traffic fades away and people sit around outside their houses chatting or playing chess during the ‘cool hours’ before sunset.

Thai people generally love having their photo taken and I’ve got bolder about asking them. As my Thai language has improved, I can have longer conversations, although I still rely on Thai friends like Kay, Nutt and Audrey for more abstract discussions about history, drama and ghosts. Here are some of my favourite local characters:

Friday, 26 December 2014

After the tsunami: Thai fishing village, ten years on

Ampai with her three children outside the family home on Koh Lanta
© UNICEF Thailand/2014/Jingjai N.
It’s been ten years since the Indian Ocean tsunami hit the Thai island of Koh Lanta on 26 December 2004, but talking about it still brings tears to Ampai’s eyes. “I often cry when I talk about the tsunami,” she says apologetically. “It’s always at the back of my mind, like a scar that doesn’t heal.”

Ampai Madsaron, 42, lives in a poor fishing village which is totally dependent on the ocean and was hit hard by the tsunami. Her home is a wooden hut built on stilts over the sea to allow easy access for the family’s fishing boat. They earn around 1,000 baht ($30 US dollars) for a good day’s catch of fish, squid or crabs.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Families shelter from Typhoon Hagupit

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Andy Brown
Typhoon Hagupit passed south of Manila, capital of the Philippines, overnight on Monday. Wind and rain brought flood risks for slum communities living near the river. In Barangay Bagong Silangan, Quezon City (part of Metro Manila), an evacuation centre was set up in a covered court on the hillside above a flood plain.