WFP has assisted more than 2 million people in Myanmar during the first quarter of 2022, with plans to assist at least 4 million by the end of the year.
Those assisted mainly include people newly displaced by conflict, people living in prolonged displacement, and poor urban dwellers – mostly women and children – whose livelihoods and food security status have been affected by the economic crisis.
WFP continues to seek humanitarian access to tens of thousands of displaced and vulnerable populations in active conflict zones who are in urgent need of emergency food and nutrition assistance.
WFP requires USD 66.8 million between June to December 2022 to ensure uninterrupted support to its beneficiaries. Of the required amount, USD 43.8 million (66 percent) is for life-saving food assistance. Funding for urban operations is expected to run out in August, while cash-based operations in crisis-affected areas will face interruptions in September 2022, affecting IDPs and other vulnerable people.
Escalating conflict and displacement: Clashes between the Myanmar Armed Forces (MAF) and various armed groups have continued to escalate in 2022, especially in the north-west and the south-east regions of the country.
Civilians continue to bear the brunt of these conflicts, with 240,000 displaced during the first quarter of the year. The total number of IDPs – both pre- and post-military takeover – in Myanmar now stands at more than 1 million (UNHCR). The security and humanitarian situation remains tense in many areas, with active conflict – including airstrikes, artillery fire, ambushes, and raids – a daily threat for many civilians. Extended periods of conflict in some areas have cut ties between civilians and their homes, and their sources of livelihoods: many farmers have not planted or harvested crops, while seasonal workers have been unable to secure crucial casual employment.
Rising food and fuel prices: Fuel prices increased 18 percent between February and March this year, driven by global uncertainty, the conflict in Ukraine, and local conditions. At the end of March, fuel prices in Myanmar were more than double those registered in February 2021 (+133 percent), according to WFP’s March Market Price update.
The increase in fuel prices has caused transport costs to rise – a key driver of increasing retail food prices. The cost of a basic food basket increased by 10 percent from February to March, and the highest month-on-month increases were recorded in northern Rakhine State (+29%) and Kayah State (+26%). Compared to the same time last year, the average cost of a basic food basket is up 32 percent.
Edible oil prices rose by 23 percent between February and March, mostly due to high transport costs and volatility in local exchange rates. The average price of rice increased 7 percent from February to March with rising prices felt nearly everywhere in the country. Rising fertilizer prices could drive food prices higher still. While Myanmar mainly imports fertilizer from China, the conflict in Ukraine is expected to have knock-on effects on the availability and price of fertilizer in Myanmar.
Access challenges: Humanitarian access to newly displaced populations, mainly in active conflict zones, remains largely restricted, limiting WFP’s ability to reach populations in urgent need of food assistance. The lengthy process required to secure travel authorizations for WFP’s monthly distributions remains a challenge. Travel authorizations are often granted on a tight schedule, allowing only limited periods to distribute humanitarian assistance.
WFP continues to plan well in advance to ensure travel authorizations are granted in time for distributions to proceed on schedule, as the security situation allows.
Meeting humanitarian needs: The conflict in Ukraine, coupled with the protracted impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, is exerting a negative impact on food prices, lead times and supplier capacity. In Myanmar, these issues are exacerbated by conflict within the country.
Many displaced farmers have been unable to harvest and sow crops since October of 2021. If this continues, the sowing of paddy rice will also be affected in many areas. The cumulative effect is likely to be a reduction in farmers’ income and food stock, which could result in a rice shortage in the market and even higher prices.
WFP will continue to use its monthly market updates to monitor the costs of food and fuel, and work with field offices and partners to identify potential activity adaptations, such as coordinating ahead of time with banks to ensure funds are available for cash-based transfers, adjusting transport contracts, and increasing the value of cash-based transfers to meet the basic needs of beneficiaries. WFP also continues to allow more lead time for the procurement of food and nutrition rations.
A potential risk is that WFP will need to pay more to procure commodities from international markets, which would require additional funding or reducing relief assistance coverage.