Six months since the military’s seizure of power, aid agencies are warning of a spiralling humanitarian catastrophe in Myanmar triggered by skyrocketing Covid-19 cases and widespread violence in the country. Over 60 per cent of reported deaths from Covid-19 in Myanmar have occurred in the past month alone, with the number of confirmed cases doubling in the last two months.
While the country is still reeling from the shockwaves of the military takeover, communities in Kayah State and the eastern Bago region – which have witnessed mass displacement in recent months – must now contend with hundreds of Covid-19 cases a day. Healthcare facilities from Kachin to Mandalay to Yangon remain shuttered as healthcare workers face violence and threats. More than 400 doctors and 180 nurses have been given arrest warrants since the military takeover in February 2021.
“The communities we work with are desperate and dying. A third wave of Covid-19 is crashing down on Myanmar, unleashing yet another trauma for its people. The population needs safe and fair access to humanitarian aid and healthcare now,” said Laura Marshall, Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Myanmar.
Lockdown measures, travel restrictions, bureaucratic impediments and insecurity are hampering humanitarian service delivery. Humanitarian workers and their families have themselves fallen gravely ill as aid agencies are forced to operate at reduced capacity.
The failure to stop the spread of this deadly disease threatens to drive millions of already at-risk families into further need. Pregnant women and other vulnerable groups face new obstacles in reaching essential care and basic services. Cases of food insecurity and indebtedness are expected to climb significantly in the coming months, especially given rising food prices, job losses and currency depreciation.
While humanitarian assistance and medical care is urgently needed to save lives today, a rapidly expanded vaccination programme is required to move the country out of this crisis. Unfortunately, only 3.6 million vaccine doses are expected to be allocated through COVAX, a drop in the ocean for the country’s population of 54.4 million.
As aid agencies operating in Myanmar, we call on political leaders to do everything possible to assist the people of Myanmar in their hour of need. Their actions should include the immediate implementation of the ASEAN five-point consensus, agreed in April, to rapidly scale up aid and vaccination for all across Myanmar. In addition, we call for an end to attacks on healthcare and for all parties to engage in dialogue which allows for urgent access to assistance to those who require it.
NRC has spokespeople available for interviews in Myanmar. Please get in touch if you would like to arrange an interview.