Analysis of the context, crisis and needs
Myanmar continues to grapple with deeply rooted humanitarian challenges. An estimated 1 million people need some form of humanitarian support due to armed conflict, vulnerability to natural hazards or intercommunal violence. The expanding impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated the lives of people in humanitarian settings across the country.
More than 336,000 people in Myanmar are internally displaced, the majority of whom are in situations of protracted displacement. Overall levels of need have increased due to an expansion of armed conflict in Rakhine and southern Chin. This has caused civilian casualties and significant additional internal displacement since early 2019, with more than 100,000 IDPs reported as of November 2020.
An estimated 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Rakhine – 130,000 of whom are effectively confined to camps or camp-like settings established in 2012 – still cannot move freely. Movement restrictions severely limit their access to essential services, such as education and health care, and to livelihoods, which deepens their vulnerability and dependence on humanitarian aid.
Despite an absence of large-scale clashes in Kachin State since mid-2018, close to 96,000 people remain in IDP camps that were set up after fighting broke out in 2011. Some 40,000 of these people are in areas controlled by non-State armed actors, which are largely inaccessible to international partners. The situation in the northern part of Shan State remains precarious due to volatile security dynamics, which continue to trigger temporary displacement of civilians, albeit at lower levels than in Rakhine. Civilians also continue to be affected by more sporadic clashes in parts of Kayin State, as well as in adjoining areas of Bago Region.
The launch of a National Strategy on IDP Resettlement and IDP Camp Closure in November 2019 has provided new opportunities for dialogue around durable solutions. However, significant challenges remain, including insecurity and conflict, limited availability of essential services in return or potential resettlement areas, landmine contamination, and complex issues around housing, land and property rights.
The rapid increase of locally transmitted COVID-19 cases across the country since mid-August 2020 has further complicated an already challenging humanitarian situation. Rakhine State has been a key epicentre in addition to the Yangon Region, which has seen the largest number of cases. As of late November 2020, some 80,000 cases, including more than 1,700 fatalities, were confirmed across the country. Some of the Government’s measures to contain the spread of the virus have reduced humanitarian access, particularly in Rakhine State. There is also particular concern about the immediate and longer-term implications of the prolonged suspension of education across Myanmar due to COVID-19, including in humanitarian settings.
Projected situation in 2021 and beyond
In Rakhine State, conflict and displacement are expected to continue to drive needs. Heightened protection risks will persist for displaced populations and other conflict-affected communities, particularly stateless Rohingya, who will continue to be impacted by movement restrictions. In conflict-affected townships in Rakhine and Chin, displacement dynamics are likely to remain fluid, but with an upward trend.
With conflict and movement restrictions expected to continue, the scope for sustainable, voluntary and dignified solutions for stateless IDPs and refugees is likely to remain limited. Outbreaks of fighting in northern Shan may continue to cause temporary displacement, and to exacerbate vulnerabilities among displaced people and host communities. Dialogue around the National Strategy on IDP Resettlement and IDP Camp Closure will remain important, but a range of challenges will need to be overcome to enable durable solutions in Kachin and parts of northern Shan. In the meantime, protracted internal displacement will continue to generate recurrent needs across sectors.
With the marked increase in COVID-19 cases since August 2020, affected communities will face more serious challenges across targeted locations. The reduced access of displaced and non-displaced Rohingya to health care and other basic services due to movement restrictions will exacerbate vulnerability. IDPs in camps and displacement sites will continue to face heightened risks of COVID-19 transmission due to overcrowding, poor sanitation and other factors. The humanitarian response is likely to be further complicated by additional controls on movement and the transportation of supplies, which will affect the delivery of assistance to affected areas. With outbreaks likely to continue, finding ways for children to safely resume education will be increasingly critical.
Myanmar will remain vulnerable to a range of natural hazards, with a risk of natural disasters extending to locations not covered by the HRP. Continued dialogue and engagement with the Government and local partners on emergency response preparedness will remain important.
Response priorities in 2021
The 2021 HRP prioritizes the provision of life-saving assistance and protection for the most vulnerable crisis-affected people in Kachin, Shan, Rakhine, Chin, Kayin and Bago. It provides for targeted preventative and response activities relating to COVID-19 in humanitarian settings. It seeks to contribute to durable solutions to internal displacement wherever feasible, in line with international protection standards. The HRP also aims to strengthen the resilience of communities and contribute to efforts to address vulnerabilities and underlying structural issues, in partnership with development and peacebuilding partners. It includes activities to build national and local capacities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters and other emergencies.