Myanmar (previously known as Burma) is one of the poorest countries in Asia, with around one quarter of its population estimated to be living in poverty. Housing and access to facilities such as water and sanitation, in urban areas is a growing need as more migrate to cities.
In 2014, Habitat began working in Myanmar’s Delta region to help families access water and sanitation facilities. Recently, our work in Myanmar has expanded into more urban areas to assist families living in informal settlements build more resilient communities.
Daw Hlaye has been living in Yangon for 10 years and in her current home for the past three years. Like many in her community she is originally from Myanmar’s Delta region and has come to the city to find employment in the factories.
After arriving from the Delta, Daw Hlaye and her family firstly rented an apartment. The small apartment cost them roughly $30USD a month and soon it became unmanageable to afford on an unsteady income. Eventually, the family found themselves living in an informal settlement nearby a stretch of factories which produce everything from women’s clothing to noodles.
Many of the inhabitants in the settlement work in the factories, and with the high cost of housing and rent in Yangon, many have no choice but to live close by work opportunities.
However, as an informal settlement housing conditions are substandard and access to services and facilities is limited.
Daw Hlaye’s home has bamboo floors and a roof and walls made of palm leaves. The home is completely open – without a front or back door. This provides much needed ventilation in the oppressive Yangon heat – and offers a source of light in the otherwise windowless home.
Daw Hlay said her main concern in the community is the access to potable water. Although there are visible water pumps around the community, these must only be used for washing clothes. Water for cooking and drinking can be purchased from vendors who push carts of water jugs throughout the settlement to sell to families.
A jug of drinking water can be purchased for roughly 50 Kyats – 5 cents AUD. While this might sound reasonable, for families on unsteady incomes this is a considerable expense. Daw Hlaye’s family, for instance, earns roughly 5,000 Kyat a day – $5AUD and one jug is nowhere near enough for a day’s usage for an entire family. Daw Than explains that the cost of buying water can quickly escalate, and when the quality of the water is also questionable, this cost is difficult to justify.
Daw Hlaye’s two children are currently in school. The children have a light in their home by which they study, but at 100 Kyats a day this is too expensive for the family. Living in an informal settlement they are charged expensive rates for utilities from private providers, as opposed to government rates.
When it rains, the house also leaks. Daw Hlaye uses tarpaulins to cover the leaks. She hopes to one day be able to repair her roof but her family must make do with plastic sheets until she is able to afford to fix it.
Where will we get water from today? How will we repair the roof to keep our family safe? How will we build a better future? These are the questions and struggles too many families around the world deal with on a daily basis. But with your support, we can build more resilient, stronger and stable communities.
Daw Hlaye explains that is it very difficult to afford a better place to live. Rental prices are very expensive so many have no other option but to remain in slums close to employment opportunities. Furthermore, rental deposits in Yangon must often be paid 6-12 months in advance, making it incredibly difficult for families earning $5 to break the cycle of poverty and access a safe home.
“A place to live is the most important thing for everyone. It allows you to work, survive but getting this is difficult,” said Daw Hlaye
Habitat for Humanity has recently started working a township just outside of Yangon to help build more resilience communities and improve access to facilities. We look forward to updating you on our progress over the coming months.
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