Myanmar faces multiple ongoing conflicts between the Myanmar military and ethnic armed groups, marked by widespread violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws causing substantial humanitarian needs. More than 279,000 people, displaced by conflict, currently live in camps in Kachin, Shan, Rakhine, Chin, and Kayin states, with limited access to basic services. Restricted humanitarian access to several areas hampers the ability of international aid organisations to provide crucial assistance to people in need. Recurrent natural disasters also increase the vulnerability of residents in disaster-prone areas.
What are the needs?
The United Nations estimates that more than 985,000 people in the country are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, including those displaced in the conflict-torn states of Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan. Violence in northern Rakhine, which started on 25 August 2017, has forced more than 740,000 Rohingya to flee across the border into Bangladesh. Approximately 600,000 stateless Rohingyas remain in Rakhine state, 126,000 of whom have been confined to camps and deprived of basic rights, including freedom of movement and access to livelihoods since 2012.
Restricted access to large parts of Rakhine state, poses a significant challenge and has severely hampered the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid in the area.
Furthermore, the fighting between Myanmar Army and Arakan Army, an armed group in Rakhine, has resulted in the displacement of more than 33,000 non-Rohingya populations in Rakhine and Chin states since December 2018.
In Kachin, Kayin and Shan states, prolonged armed conflicts have also taken a heavy toll on the local population. To date, more than 118,000 people are still displaced following clashes between armed groups and security forces. Limited humanitarian access severely restricts humanitarian operations particularly in areas beyond government control.
How are we helping?
In 2019, the European Union allocated €9 million in humanitarian aid to address the immediate needs of displaced and conflict-affected communities in Myanmar. In addition, in December 2019, another €10 million addressed the crucial needs of the Rohingya people and host communities in both Myanmar and Bangladesh. In Rakhine state, the EU works with trusted humanitarian partners to address the protection, food, nutrition and health needs of the most vulnerable people, particularly in the northern townships. Following the violence in August 2017, which resulted in the forced displacement of more than 740,000 Rohingya from Myanmar into Bangladesh, the EU stepped up its humanitarian assistance in the form of food, nutritional care, healthcare, water and sanitation, coordination, and protection including mine education.
The EU also provides humanitarian aid to those affected or displaced by conflict in Kachin and northern Shan states. In addition to providing food, healthcare, water and sanitation support to people living in displacement camps, the EU has also contributed to raising awareness on landmines, protection, and currently supports education in emergencies programming to assist children affected by conflict to resume education in safe spaces.
The EU has also responded to a number of natural disasters in Myanmar over the past 2 decades. In the aftermath of the widespread flooding triggered by heavy monsoon rains in August 2018, the EU channelled €130,000 in humanitarian aid funding through the Myanmar Red Cross Society to address the most pressing needs of the worst affected populations through multi-purpose cash grants and distributions of hygiene kits. Additionally, in late May 2017, when cyclone Mora wreaked havoc across several areas along the country’s western coast, with Rakhine state being the hardest hit, the EU immediately allocated €500,000 to provide emergency relief assistance to the affected communities.
Another priority of EU humanitarian assistance in Myanmar is disaster risk reduction, focused on increasing the resilience of the most vulnerable communities facing recurrent natural disasters by bolstering local early warning and response capacities. In line with the EU's international commitments, the European Commission ensures that all its relevant actions lead to the reduction of disaster risks and to the improvement of communities' resources for better preparedness to natural disasters. In this regard, €11.65 million have been allocated since to coastal flood-prone areas and earthquake-prone urban areas since 2010.
The European Commission, through its European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department, has been active in Myanmar since 1994. It has funded emergency relief programmes to assist victims of both conflict and natural disasters, with total funding in excess of €253 million. Since 2013, a total of €4.65 million have also been provided for emergency education to conflict-affected children, including €2 million in 2019.