“I know exactly where to escape to if another disaster hits”, affirms Namoo, sitting on the porch outside her home with her husband Jana. Namoo is a respected elder within her community in the village of Huamayom. Many local people come to her to seek guidance, owing to her deep religious knowledge and practice of ancestor worship. She has lived through several severe storms and disastrous floods that have hit Fang District in Northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai Province. She admits that in the past, these natural events left her frightened and unsure of what to do. But now that she’s attended training run by a local organisation, Capacity Improvement of Tribal Communities in Nam Fang Basin (CITC), she knows which types of buildings are stronger and safer, and what to prioritise in the event of an emergency.

These disaster preparedness workshops are coordinated and supported by HelpAge International and Plan International, each bringing expertise related to their particular target populations: the elderly and children respectively. Recognising that these remote hill-based communities have difficulty accessing government assistance in times of crisis, largely due to their ‘foreign’ ethnicity and ‘informal’ status within society (many hill tribe members are considered ‘stateless’ and lack formal registration documents), the partnership set about implementing disaster risk reduction strategies.

Developing resilience to natural disasters is, of course, not merely a case of having an evacuation plan. The project has educated communities on the types of hazards that exist in their localities, such as the potential for landslides, forest fires and flash floods, and assisted local teams with mapping out vulnerable areas and creating early warning systems. Robin was commissioned by HelpAge International to document the entirety of this innovative and increasingly essential disaster preparedness scheme from the perspective of those who have benefited from it. He travelled to the border between Thailand and Burma, where he met beneficiaries and key stakeholders, gained an in-depth understanding of the partnership’s work and captured a collection of attractive, insightful images along with interviews to inform the contents of a 40-page book of visual stories. This was used as a ‘best practice’ guide for an ASEAN-wide resilience partnership, funded by the European Commission on Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).



Disaster preparedness for the vulnerable

Elderly, climate change, disaster preparedness

HelpAge International

Fang District, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand

Camera settings
29mm, ISO 1000, 1/100, f/9.0