Traffic jams. The changing face of Myanmar
Myanmar, one of the largest countries in southeast Asia, is potentially one of its richest.
However, after decades of virtual international isolation it is among the world's poorest nations.
Since it began operations in the country in 1981 JICA has concentrated mainly on limited assistance programs in such humanitarian fields as health and education but as the country slowly emerges from its pariah status the agency is vigorously exploring new fields of activity.
A key component of JICA's global activities is to help countries and communities emerging from conflict situations and after decades of internal conflict there are hundreds of thousands of civilians who need assistance to rebuild their lives.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Myanmar is to rebuild its crumbling infrastructure—roads, bridges, railroads, water and power—and JICA is already involved in a series of discussions, feasibility studies and initial projects to begin a complete overhaul of that infrastructure.
JICA has maintained a modest ‘humanitarian’ assistance program in the southeast Asian country but is now vigorously exploring new projects in several fields to accelerate the country's economic and social development.
Facts and figures about the southeast Asian nation.
Yangon, Myanmar's former capital city has been caught in a time-warp for several decades. But now JICA is expected to help develop a ‘master plan’ for the city of five million people to usher it into the modern era.
When Cyclone Nargis crashed into Myanmar in 2008 with devastating effect the country's first line of defense, its mangrove forests, had been partially destroyed. Efforts are underway to reseed the forests, offering both protection against future natural disasters and sustainable economic development for local communities.
Developing countries rarely have the resources to help some of their most vulnerable people. JICA projects are helping Myanmar's deaf community, strengthening the country's only rehabilitation center and tackling the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
When one teachers began to inter-act directly with her students for the first time she found some of them didn't even speak the national language. One project aims to introduce a more dynamic student-friendly curriculum.
Myanmar's most important river is only a few miles away. But villages in a region known as the central dry zone are perpetually short of agricultural and domestic water. Hundreds of wells are being sunk and other rehabilitated to help local communities.
Agriculture is the backbone of Myanmar. The country needs to both protect its biodiversity and genetic resources and strengthen the flow of improved seeds to its farmers.
Myanmar is rich in natural, agricultural and manpower resources. But after decades of international isolation the country needs a major overhaul of its basic infrastructure including new roads, rail, air, river and power resources.
The most intractable problem facing Myanmar perhaps is how to successfully resolve decades old conflicts between the central government and many of the country's ethnic minorities.