Myanmar + 1 more

Humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable populations in Burma/Myanmar and to Burmese refugees along the Thai-Burma/Myanmar border.

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Location of operation: BURMA/MYANMAR AND THAILAND
Amount of Decision: EUR 15,500,000
Decision reference number: ECHO/-XA/BUD/2006/01000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population.

1.1. - Rationale:

Burma/Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Asia, ranking 129th out of 177 countries in the 2005 Human Development Index, and receiving only very limited international assistance: total Official Development Assistance to Burma/Myanmar is one of the lowest in the world (EUR 2 per capita in 2004 compared with EUR 28 for Cambodia and EUR 40 for Laos). The situation in the health sector is particularly worrying, and WHO's World Health report 2005 shows that Burma/Myanmar per capita government expenditure on health is also the third lowest in the world (after the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi). Some humanitarian indicators like under-five mortality rate (108 per 1,000 live births) are triple the rates in neighbouring Thailand.

The political stalemate and lack of transition which has prevailed in Burma/Myanmar for decades and even preceding the military suppression of the pro-democracy movement in 1988 continues unabated. On-going armed resistance and forced village relocations have led in the past years to a flux of refugees (in September 2006 there were 151,639 refugees in the border between Thailand and Burma/Myanmar and 30,000 in Bangladesh(1)) and internally displaced people (over 500 000 in Eastern Burma/Myanmar alone).

In this context, and under the current EU Common Position, non-humanitarian and development programmes remain suspended with notable exceptions. All EC programmes and projects must be implemented through UN agencies, non-governmental organisations, and through decentralised cooperation with local civilian administrations.

The possibility of a cease-fire agreement between the Karen National Union (KNU) and the government and the repatriation of refugees in Thailand back to Burma/Myanmar is not in the cards for the foreseeable future. Most refugees have switched their hopes to resettlement in a third country. In 2006, about 5,000 people have the opportunity to leave the camps, mainly for the USA, but also for Canada and other countries like Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands or Finland. This resettlement process could continue for a few years. In the meantime, assistance to the refugee population remains vital for their survival.

This Decision fully responds to DG ECHO2's annual strategy for 2006, which continues to focus on forgotten needs (Burma/Myanmar and the Burmese refugees in Thailand are both among the five most forgotten crises in DG ECHO's Global Needs assessment for 2006). The Decision also includes components covering two of the key cross-cutting issues for DG ECHO: water and children.

The Decision will aim at addressing some of the basic humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable populations, notably in the border areas. It includes an important protection component towards Muslim minorities in Northern Rakhine State and the displaced populations on the border with Thailand. It will also target the humanitarian needs of Burmese refugees along the Burma/Myanmar -Thai border.

Notes:

(1) Remaining caseload and new arrivals.