“Myan Ku”, or rapid assistance, brings smiles to workers during the pandemic

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This story outlines the work of UNOPs, funded by its partners which contribute to The Nexus Response for Myanmar.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that ending the COVID-19 pandemic everywhere is both a moral imperative and a matter of enlightened self-interest. ‘’Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures. We face a colossal test which demands decisive, coordinated and innovative action from all, for all.’’

In Myanmar, the UN Country Team, representing more than 20 agencies, is undertaking both development and humanitarian work that is impacting on the everyday lives of people. This story outlines the work of UNOPs, funded by its partners which contribute to The Nexus Response for Myanmar, which is supporting a government program to provide cash to workers in the garment industry.

Ma Thazin Oo needs to care for her elderly grandmother.

Ma Thazin Oo, 26 years old, grew up with her grandmother in Tharmanya, Kayin State. Both her parents passed away when she was little. Two years ago, she left her home and her job at a grocery store to get work in Yangon. She found employment in the cutting and pattern unit at Global Wealth Manufacture. She enjoyed her job and appreciated her co-workers who shared knowledge with her and provided on-the-job training.

Her minimum monthly income was a little over a hundred thousand kyats (USD$73) but she could earn over two hundred thousand kyats (USD$146) by working overtime. This allowed her to send some money home to her grandmother every month.

Ma Thazin Oo had been working almost two years at the factory when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the factory shut. This was not enough to get severance pay or compensation when, along with tens of thousands of other workers, she suddenly found herself without an income. How could she pay her rent?

She could not return to her grandmother as bus travel was stopped as a result of pandemic travel restrictions. She began to search for jobs but became disillusioned when no call came from employers.

Her desire to go job-hunting forced her out of isolation despite her anxiety about the virus. She bought a mask, using the last of the money in her pocket. She struggled to survive in her small room on minimal food supply, with two overdue rent bills. She felt hopeless and scared.

In the first week of June, Global Wealth Manufacture informed her that she was eligible to receive cash assistance from “Myan Ku”.

Myan Ku is an emergency assistance cash fund supported by the European Union through its USD$5.9m Nexus Response for Myanmar, and supports garment workers who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. The Nexus Response for Myanmar is managed by UNOPS.

On 8 June, Ma Thazin Oo received the first payment of 75,000 kyats (USD$55) and could pay one month's rent. After getting a second payment, she was able to pay all her bills.

The financial support she received has relieved her from the stress she was facing and gave her motivation to face the future.

Myan Ku was established in April, 2020. By mid-August the initiative had distributed more than 45,000 payments to about 27,000 workers in 230 factories.

The programme has been extended to November 30 and will help garment, textile and footwear industry workers who have lost their jobs. Unemployed pregnant workers, migrant workers and workers who are using their unemployment period to enrol in education and skills training can benefit from this support.

The project is implemented by SEQUA, a development agency funded by Germany’s top business groups, and Digital Money Myanmar (Wave Money).

There are more than 20 UN agencies in Myanmar, including UNOPS, which came together when COVID19 struck to meet the health, social security and humanitarian needs of the people of Myanmar.

Myanmar is an active member of the UN system and makes a valuable contribution to the global work of the UN.

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