This regular update, covering humanitarian developments in conflict-affected areas from 26 March to 23 April, is produced by OCHA Myanmar in collaboration with the Inter-Cluster Coordination Group and UNHCR. The next update will be issued towards the end of May 2021.
- In south-eastern Myanmar, an estimated 40,000 people have been displaced due to insecurity, armed clashes between the Myanmar Armed Forces (MAF) and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), and indiscriminate attacks by the MAF on civilian areas.
- In Kachin State, around 5,800 people have been displaced since armed confrontation between the MAF and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) resurged in early March; about 5,000 remain displaced.
- In northern Shan, the volatile security situation and clashes, mostly involving Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), have caused the displacement of about 11,000 people since January.
- In Rakhine and Chin states, casualties due to landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) are on the rise, with 11 civilians, including 9 children killed or injured in April.
- Humanitarian assistance and protection services in conflict-affected areas continue despite the impact of the political crisis on operations and pre-existing access challenges. The escalation of violence in parts of Myanmar increases threats to the safety of humanitarian operations and compounds existing access challenges.
- The 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan, which seeks US$276.5 million to assist around 1 million people in conflict-affected areas, remains severely underfunded, with only 12 per cent of requirements covered so far – FTS.
40K people displaced in the South-east since December 2020
11K people displaced in northern Shan since January 2021
5.8K people displaced in Kachin State since mid-March 2021
11 civilian casualties due to explosive hazards in Rakhine and Chin states in April
SURGE IN DISPLACEMENT IN THE SOUTH-EAST: Armed conflict in the south-eastern parts of Myanmar continues to intensify between the MAF and the KNLA, an armed wing of the Karen National Union, resulting in further internal displacement and civilian casualties, mostly in Kayin State and Bago Region. The clashes, which erupted in early December 2020, had internally displaced around 7,100 people by mid-March, mostly in Hpapun Township in Kayin State, where the displaced families were hiding in the jungles with limited access to services and humanitarian assistance.
The humanitarian situation in the area has worsened since late March, with thousands of people having reportedly fled from their homes in Kayin State after the MAF launched airstrikes, including in civilian areas. The continued hostilities, shelling of civilian areas by the MAF, and increased insecurity reportedly led to the displacement of an estimated 40,000 people throughout south-eastern Myanmar by 20 April, according to data gathered from various sources by UNHCR. Prior to developments on 1 February 2021, Kayin State and Bago Region had hosted about 12,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in four locations, both in camp-like and out-of-camp settlements, since 2006.
The hostilities in Kayin and Bago between 27 March and 8 April have killed at least 20 civilians and injured more than 25, according to public sources. There have also been reports of a local school destroyed in Dwe Lo Township in Hpapun District of Kayin State, in addition to damage to other civilian property. The details of civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure could not be verified at the time of reporting. Humanitarian interventions remain constrained due to severe and longstanding access challenges, compounded by growing insecurity in the area. Nevertheless, operational partners are doing their best to deliver assistance to the newly displaced and those otherwise affected by hostilities. Humanitarian partners are planning to roll out a displacement tracking system and carrying out a stocktaking exercise to assess the capacities of partners in Kayin State. This is to facilitate the efficient prepositioning of emergency supplies among partners to ensure a coordinated response.
NEW DISPLACEMENT IN KACHIN DUE TO RESURGENCE OF CONFLICT: The security situation in Kachin State, which began to deteriorate following the eruption of clashes between the MAF and the KIA in early March, remains volatile. Armed confrontations between the MAF and the KIA were reported in at least 12 townships, including Bhamo, Hpakant, Injayang, Kamaing, Mogaung, Momauk, Myitkyina, Putao, Shwegu, Sumprabum, Tanai and Waingmaw, ranging from local skirmishes, to attacks on convoys, airstrikes, artillery and mortar shelling. Hardly any clashes had not been reported in Kachin State since September 2018.
The conflict led to the displacement of over 5,800 people since early March 2021. Around 800 people returned to their places of origin within a few days, while about 5,000 remain displaced across several townships. Some 4,800 people are currently hosted in churches, monasteries and displacement sites in Injanyang, Momauk and Shwegu townships. The remaining IDPs are dispersed in small numbers across Dawthponeyan and Hpakant townships. Attempts are being made to reach the affected communities with assistance; however, insecurity and other access constraints make it difficult for partners to scale up the efforts to address needs, which include emergency shelter, food, basic household items and healthcare. The new displacement comes on top of protracted internal displacement in Kachin State, where about 95,000 people have been living in IDP camps established in 2011.
In addition to increased humanitarian needs and population movement, the ongoing insecurity is raising serious protection concerns, with reports of increased conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) perpetrated against women and girls. Reported incidents included brutal and systematic CRSV committed by multiple perpetrators and most of these violations were perpetrated against women and girls of ethnic minority groups.
POPULATION MOVEMENT IN NORTHERN SHAN: Clashes between the MAF and EAOs or between EAOs in northern Shan continued unabated in the first quarter of 2021 and escalated in March. The Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and the allied forces of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) engaged in armed confrontations in Hsipaw, Kyaukme, Monghsu and Namtu townships. There were also clashes, albeit with less intensity and frequency between the MAF and the KIA in Lashio, Kutkai and Muse townships, between the MAF and the TNLA in Kutkai and Namhkan townships, and between the MAF and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army in Hseni and Kutkai townships.
Clashes between January and April displaced close to 11,000 people in Hsipaw, Kyaukme, Lashio, Namtu, Namhkan, Monghsu and Muse townships. Displacement generally remains temporary; over 6,000 people returned to their places of origin within a few days. The remaining 4,770 people are currently hosted in churches, monasteries and displacement sites, with Kyaukme and Namtu townships hosting around 1,650 and 1,340 IDPs respectively. Local humanitarian partners and host communities are providing life-saving assistance and protection services, although as with other states and regions, operational challenges, including due to pre-existing access constraints and insecurity, continue to hinder their abilities to scale up.
The conflict dynamics and their humanitarian impact in northern Shan so far in 2021 demonstrate an upward trend compared to the same period in 2020, when there were only a few brief armed skirmishes between the EAOs that temporary displaced some 720 people. In addition to the most recent displacements, about 9,800 IDPs continue to reside in protracted displacement camps in northern Shan established since 2011.
EXPLOSIVE HAZARDS A THREAT IN RAKHINE AND CHIN: Despite the absence of hostilities in Rakhine and southern areas of Chin states since November 2020, the physical wellbeing of civilians remains threatened by the presence of landmines and ERWs. In April, a total of 11 civilians were killed or injured by landmines and ERWs, mostly in Rakhine. In Kyauktaw Township in Rakhine State on 4 April, the explosion of an ERW killed a mother and her two children and injured another child. Another explosion reportedly injured six children under 16 years old near Taung Ywar Village in Buthidaung Township on 8 April. A landmine incident was also reported in Paletwa Township in Chin State on 15 April, in which one civilian sustained injuries.
Meanwhile, there are reports that the MAF is demining villages and roads across several townships in Rakhine, tied with efforts to encourage people displaced by the MAF-Arakan Army (AA) conflict to return to their places of origin. However, many IDPs remain unwilling to return due to the continued presence of armed personnel around their villages, concerns about landmines, and the lack of livelihood opportunities. As of 21 April, more than 78,000 people displaced by the MAF-AA conflict were hosted in 146 sites and 5,038 people in 28 host communities in Rakhine State. Another 9,841 IDPs remained in 27 sites in Chin State, as of 21 January. This is in addition to around 126,000 IDPs, mostly stateless persons, who are hosted in protracted camps established in 2012.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.