Myanmar Humanitarian Needs Overview 2020 (December 2019)


Context and Impact of the Crisis

Humanitarian needs in Myanmar are driven by multiple factors including armed conflict, inter-communal violence, and vulnerability to natural hazards. The situation is aggravated by chronic poverty, protracted displacement, food insecurity, limited social support networks, and underlying inequalities including statelessness, segregation, discrimination, and gender disparities that exacerbate the needs, vulnerabilities and marginalization of people in many parts of the country. The humanitarian situation in Rakhine State has deteriorated significantly since August 2017, when security operations by the Myanmar Armed Forces, in response to armed attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, caused an exodus of more than 740,000 refugees - mostly stateless Rohingya¹ - to Bangladesh. An estimated 600,000 Rohingya currently remain in Rakhine State. This includes around 126,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) confined to camps established in the central part of Rakhine State following sectarian violence in 2012. These camps also host around 2,000 internally displaced Kaman Muslims, in rural Sittwe, Pauktaw and Kyaukpyu. The impact of this protracted displacement is compounded by movement restrictions that continue to limit access to livelihoods and essential services such as education and healthcare, deepening vulnerability and dependence on humanitarian aid. The other 470,000 non-displaced Rohingya also face discrimination and restrictions on freedom of movement that similarly limit their access to livelihoods and services.

Humanitarian challenges in Rakhine State have grown following an upsurge in fighting between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the Arakan Army in December 2018 that has caused civilian casualties and the displacement of tens of thousands of people in nine townships of Rakhine State and one township of Chin State. As of September 2019, more than 32,000 people remained displaced in sites due to this conflict, according to government figures. This displacement has created significant additional needs, both for those who have fled their homes and among communities hosting newly displaced people. Considering the significant expansion of the protection crisis across much of Rakhine, and outstanding challenges in addressing the root causes, significant humanitarian needs are expected to persist among all affected communities throughout 2020. Humanitarian access remains a serious challenge across Rakhine.

The situation in the north and north-east of the country presents both serious challenges and potential opportunities. In Kachin State, where more than 97,000 IDPs have been in camps since 2011, there has been limited new armed conflict or displacement since August 2018, potentially providing opportunities for increased dialogue around durable solutions. In northern Shan State, on the other hand, numerous outbreaks of violence have occurred in 2018 and 2019, involving fighting between the Myanmar Armed Forces and Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), as well as between EAOs, despite a unilateral ceasefire by the Myanmar Armed Forces between December 2018 and 21 September 2019. This has caused the temporary displacement of thousands of people and a wide range of human rights violations. While most of the displacement during this period was for relatively short periods, around 9,600 people in northern Shan State remain in a situation of in protracted displacement. As is the case in Rakhine State, increased militarization and high levels of population displacement increase risks of serious protection violations, including conflict-related sexual violence.

In both Kachin and northern Shan, humanitarian organizations continue to face significant operational constraints, with safe, timely and unhindered access by and to people in need having become increasingly challenging in many locations over the past year. Travel restrictions continue to have a serious impact on the ability of humanitarian organizations to assess needs, engage with affected people, provide assistance in a timely and efficient manner, and monitor impact.

Scope of Analysis

The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) in Myanmar agreed on the following drivers, population groups and geographical locations as key parameters for the 2020 Myanmar Humanitarian Needs Overview. The geographical scope of this document focuses on Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states, which have the most urgent humanitarian needs stemming from factors including armed conflict, movement restrictions, discrimination and limited access to services. However, other locations, such as Chin and Kayin states, which also host IDPs and where there are additional vulnerabilities linked to natural hazards, have also been included in the impact and risk analysis in an effort to capture a broader overview of anticipated humanitarian needs in Myanmar in 2020.

Humanitarian Consequences

Conflict continues to be the main driver of humanitarian needs, with civilian populations in Kachin, northern Shan, Rakhine, Chin and Kayin states exposed to significant protection risks that threaten their dignity, physical and mental wellbeing and living standards. More than 985,000 people in Myanmar need humanitarian assistance. Of these, some 864,000 people are experiencing critical problems related to physical and mental wellbeing and approximately 973,000 are suffering from critical problems related to living standards.

Severity of Needs

While the drivers of and underlying factors behind humanitarian needs and consequences have impacted all crisis-affected people to varying degrees in Kachin, northern Shan, Rakhine, Chin and Kayin states, specific population groups and locations have been more severely affected than others. Townships in Rakhine State, which hosts most of the people in need (76 per cent of the total), are the most severely affected when compared to other states (although all locations have pockets of extreme need). Among the four population groups listed below, IDPs and the stateless (in Rakhine) are generally the worst-affected groups. Overall, the most extreme/severe needs across sectors are concentrated in areas with a large number of IDPs and stateless people (in Rakhine) in areas of ongoing armed conflict.

People in Need

More than 273,000 displaced people -69 per cent of whom are women and children - remain in camps or camp-like situations in Kachin, Shan, Rakhine, Chin and Kayin states. This includes over 97,800 people in Kachin, 9,600 in Shan, 10,600 in Kayin and 1,000 in Chin. It also includes about 128,000 mostly stateless IDPs in Rakhine displaced by inter-communal violence in 2012 as well as close to 32,000 people displaced due the escalation of conflict between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the Arakan Army in January 2019. In addition, there are other particularly vulnerable people who continue to require special attention or support because of different factors including, inter alia, armed conflict, statelessness, movement restrictions, malnutrition and severe psychological distress.