• The crisis following the military takeover on 1 February is likely to have a severe impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of children and will exacerbate existing humanitarian needs of 450,000 children.
• Peaceful protests and a civil disobedience movement (CDM) against the military takeover continue across the country despite violent and arbitrary crackdowns by security forces. Military occupation of hospitals and universities has been reported in almost all states and regions, limiting access to critical life-saving services, with particularly serious implications for vulnerable populations.
• There are continued disruptions to communication, transportation and supply chains, and shortages of cash for operations due to limitations on banking services. Despite these challenges UNICEF continues to provide a package of interventions in Health, Nutrition, Child Protection, Education, WASH and Social Protection.
• The current situation calls for emergency assistance outside the current Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) locations.
Funding Overview and Partnerships
UNICEF is currently appealing for US $61.7 million to support 424,000 people, including 224,000 children, to access essential basic services in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), nutrition, health, education, child protection and social protection and improved hygiene practices to prevent COVID-19 infection. However, these reflect pre-February needs, given the increasingly deteriorating situation across the country with loss of access to basic services due to the protests and CDM, and agencies turning to costly alternatives in programme implementation outside national systems, we expect these needs to increase.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
Humanitarian needs in Myanmar are driven by multiple factors including armed conflict, inter-communal violence, and vulnerability to natural hazards (HNO 2020). Even before 1 February 2021, nearly one million people in five states, including 336,000 IDPs, were in need of humanitarian assistance. Fighting between the Myanmar Armed Forces and Arakan Army in 2020 had displaced 81,245 people to 185 informal settlements in Rakhine and 236 in Chin, adding to the needs of 130,000 people already displaced since 2012 and in deteriorating and overcrowded camps. UNICEF’s appeal aligns with the sectoral needs of the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan in five states: Rakhine, Chin, Kachin,
Shan and Kayin.
The political situation has deteriorated in the country since 1 February 2021, with continuous demonstrations across most of the country and the imposition of martial law. As the crisis escalates, there is an urgent need to ensure the continuity and functionality of services and thereby enable a rapid scale up of emergency assistance outside current HRP locations. Challenges are being faced in the movement of humanitarian supplies sparking fears of potential supply shortages due transportation and supply chains, and shortages of cash for operations due to limitations on banking services.
Children are being killed, wounded, detained, exposed to tear gas and stun grenades and are witnessing terrifying scenes of violence. The continuing use of force against children by security forces, including the use of live ammunition, is taking a devastating toll on children in Myanmar.
Since the crisis began on 1 February, at least 35 children have been killed and many more seriously injured. Arbitrary detentions of children are also continuing to occur – indeed almost half of all persons detained are children or young people. UNICEF estimate that almost 1,000 children and young people have been arbitrarily detained. And while many of those detained have subsequently been released, many are still being held without access to legal counsel, in violation of their human rights. In some areas, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, cutting off tens of thousands of children from their relatives, friends, communities and traditional means of support.
On 14 March, martial law was imposed in 11 townships across the country. The establishment of complete military control in those areas poses significant risk for children given the risk that standard legal safeguards provided for under the Child Rights Law (CRL) may be suspended. This is of concern since the military justice system, unlike the civilian justice system, does not include any special measures or considerations for children.
Life-saving humanitarian services such as maternal, newborn and child health, emergency care and emergency obstetrics and neo-natal care have been disrupted nationwide for a number of reasons, including the participation in the CDM by civil servants and other service providers. Disruption of provision of essential services such as communication, banking, logistics and transportation are observed.
Learning has been disrupted for almost 12 million children in Myanmar due to widespread school closures since March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been further exacerbated by the lack of alternative learning programmes. This lost learning opportunity has affected not only school-aged children who would normally be enrolled in government formal schools, but also those children seeking continuous learning opportunities in non-formal education centres, which have been closed. Prolonged disruptions to learning not only keep children out of school but also serve to create more out-of-school children after schools eventually reopen.
As of 19 March, security forces have reportedly occupied more than 60 schools and university campuses in 13 states and regions. In at least one incident, security forces reportedly beat two teachers while entering premises, and left several others injured. Other public institutions including hospitals have also been occupied.
Since 1 February, COVID-19 testing has been very limited in Myanmar, with the result that the true burden of COVID19 cases is not known. It is likely that the mass gatherings associated with demonstrations will have led to an increase in incidence. Prior to February 2021 an average of around 20,000 tests were being conducted on a daily basis. In February and March, the rate has dropped to fewer than 2,000 tests per day.