2021 has been a traumatic year for the people of Myanmar, characterized by unprecedented levels of human suffering. Post the military takeover, so many of the impressive development gains the country has made over the past 15 years are now sadly under serious threat due to a combination of economic instability, COVID-19, escalating conflict, and a rapid and ever-increasing erosion of human rights. This has pushed record numbers of people into the humanitarian assistance space.
At the time of publication, conflict has intensified across many new parts of the country, particularly in the northwest and southeast, leaving people traumatized and displaced. The situation is forcing increasing numbers of people to flee for their lives, sometimes taking shelter in neighboring communities and other times in jungles and forests with limited access to assistance. They join hundreds of thousands of people displaced by previous conflict who are living in protracted displacement sites, predominantly in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan. The majority of those displaced are dependent on humanitarian support for their survival and have limited options for return.
Poverty is back to levels not seen since 2005 with almost half the population now unable to make ends meet. Steep price hikes, combined with job and income losses, mean many families can no longer afford enough food to eat and are slipping into humanitarian need for the first time. More than 13 million people are now in moderate or severe food insecurity as a result and the outlook for malnutrition is dire unless we intervene now. People are increasingly resorting to dangerous coping strategies to survive, leading to worsening protection risks.
Faced with this grim outlook, humanitarians have recalibrated the humanitarian response in Myanmar for 2022, with a new national scope of analysis and action. The 2022 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) published in December makes a clear case for expanded response with 14.4 million people in humanitarian need. While it will not be possible for humanitarians to reach all of these people with assistance, the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) has prioritized an unprecedented 6.2 million people for urgent support based on the severity of their needs and a realistic assessment of our ability to deliver. This represents an exponential scale-up from our target of 1 million people at this time last year, but the situation demands that we do more, and I am confident that humanitarians will rise to the challenge. However, the success of this scale-up and our ability to reduce suffering on a national scale in 2022 will be dependent on three key factors – expanded and safe access to people in need, increased funding, and removal of bottlenecks such as visa delays and banking restrictions.
Humanitarians stand willing and able to work in areas of need across the country but are facing access constraints that are delaying this lifesaving assistance. Local organizations are bravely delivering to people wherever they can, but this is only part of the solution to a crisis of this scale. Quicker, simplified and predictable access processes and assurances of aid worker safety are urgently needed for a humanitarian response of this size, allowing local, national, and international organizations to support people in need. Advocacy for this is paramount and the collective voices of humanitarians, key bilateral partners including donor governments, the UN, and ASEAN must be raised and heard.
To carry out the ambitious programme of work outlined in this HRP, the humanitarian community requires $826 million. I encourage partners and donors to reflect on the pages at the back of the plan outlining the tough decisions we will need to make to further triage the response if we are not able to raise the funds we need. I urge donors to give generously, in solidarity with the people of Myanmar to save lives and protect hard-fought development gains while there is still a window to do so. Millions of lives are now on the line.
UN Resident Coordinator a.i. / Humanitarian Coordinator a.i.