Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
Eleven months into the 1 February 2021 military takeover, the conflict has spread across Myanmar, affecting hundreds of thousands of people who urgently need multisectoral emergency assistance. Throughout the year, the expansion of the conflict has severely impacted the already affected public system and provoked increased population displacements nationwide, with some people fleeing their homes in fear of the armed conflict, and others leaving villages destroyed by armed groups. The northwest and southeast regions have been the most severely affected by the clashes between the Myanmar Armed Forces (MAF) and the People’s Defence Forces and Ethnic Armed Organizations. As of 27 December 2021, the UN Refugee Agency reported a national total of 320,900 people who have remained displaced since the beginning of the clashes, including approximately 15,000 people who have found refuge across the border in India. This national total also accounts for 175,700 individuals who have been displaced in the southeast, including 4,700 people who have fled to neighbouring Thailand since the mid-December attacks in Kayin state. Prior to the coup and in addition to the previous figures, OCHA reports that approximately 370,000 people are in protracted displacement due to earlier conflict in Myanmar. This number includes 144,000 people, mostly Rohingyas, living in Rakhine state camps since 2012, 106,700 people living in protracted displacement camps in Kachin and northern Shan states since 2011, and 82,200 people displaced due to conflict between the Arakan Army and MAF from early 2019 and late 2020.
In 2021, these mass movements of the population generated an array of new needs and exacerbated the vulnerability of specific groups, such as children and women, affected by the widespread violence. Humanitarian programming readjustments to the growing needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic were still a priority this year, with newly added vulnerabilities since the start of the conflict. From the initial 1 million people in need identified at the end of 2020, the number rapidly grew to 3.1 million in the Humanitarian Response Plan addendum. Consequently, UNICEF revised its Humanitarian Action for Children in August, which highlighted its aim to reach 667,389 people including 316,164 children out of the 1.2 million children estimated to be in dire need of nutrition services, safe drinking water, health care, protection and education. All assistance programmes have been expanded, but humanitarian partners have faced additional layers of complexity in their implementation, including access restrictions to people in conflict-affected areas, security risks and threats due to hazards, and temporary suspension of their activities due to COVID-19 prevention measures. Despite funding gaps and operational constraints, UNICEF implemented its responses, including reaching 96 per cent of its target for providing access to primary health care services to 148,528 people, 89 per cent of its target for providing access to primary education to 77,758 children aged from 3 to 17 years, and 52 per cent of its target was reached for providing access to safe water to 227,013 people.
As of 1 January 2022, a cumulative total of 531,025 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 19,274 deaths were recorded in Myanmar, resulting in a case fatality rate of 3,6 per cent. The escalation of the armed conflict, the population displacements and the impact of COVID-19 control measures have further restricted access to essential services, in conjunction with their impacts on children. As a result, approximately 12 million children missed school for 18 months due to the pandemic. Even though schools began to reopen in November 2021, the slow growth in attendance (40 to 50 per cent as of December 2021) demonstrated resistance to attending schools managed by the de facto authorities.
The conflict’s impact on children goes further, with exposure to violence affecting their physical and psychological health and well-being, and the heightened risks of suffering from conflict-related violence including killing, physical injury, trafficking, recruitment and use in armed conflict, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest, and unlawful detention. Given the persistence of the conflict and its impact, UNICEF has estimated that the population’s emergency needs will continue to grow in 2022, with an estimated 25 per cent of the population needing humanitarian aid, including 5 million children.