Context, crisis, impacts and needs
The people of Myanmar are facing an unprecedented political, socioeconomic, human rights and humanitarian crisis with needs escalating dramatically since the military takeover and a severe COVID-19 third wave in 2021. The expansion of armed conflict into and formation of new armed elements in new areas is driving increased displacement and has exacerbated or generated new protection and assistance needs. The military takeover and the large-scale Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) that has followed have heavily impacted the emerging economy and the already fragile public service sector, further restricting people’s access to essential services and children’s access to education. These inter-related risks have also deepened pre-existing needs among already vulnerable groups including stateless Rohingya people and people living in protracted displacement, predominantly in the country’s southwest and northeast.
The economic and political turmoil of 2021 is projected to have driven almost half the population into poverty heading into 2022, wiping out the impressive gains made since 2005. Increasing numbers of vulnerable people are exhausting their coping capacity and are now slipping into humanitarian need. Price hikes, COVID-19 movement restrictions and ongoing insecurity have forced the most vulnerable people to resort to crisis or emergency coping strategies to buy food and other basic supplies, often negatively impacting on their safety, well-being and dignity. Prices for key household commodities in some states and regions have risen significantly making some food items increasingly unaffordable. Farming incomes have been affected by lower wholesale prices for some crops, higher input prices, lower farm gate prices and limited access to credit, affecting their livelihoods.
COVID-19 related border closures have reduced agricultural export earnings, and made essential farming inputs like fertilizer less available and more expensive. Monsoon floods in July and August 2021 affected more than 120,000 people across various parts of the country (eastern Shan, Kayin, Mon and Rakhine states as well as in Tanintharyi Region), resulting in crop losses and further contributing to food insecurity.3 In a deteriorating trend from the beginning of the year, it is estimated that 14 out of 15 states and regions in Myanmar are now within the critical threshold for acute malnutrition.
This multi-dimensional humanitarian crisis is now affecting the whole country, posing grave protection risks for civilians, limiting access to services and deepening food insecurity. The grim outlook outlined in this Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) requires a scaled-up Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) to prevent loss of life and reduce suffering. The UN Socioeconomic Resilience and Response Plan (SERRP) will also have a critical complementary role to play in preventing more people from slipping into humanitarian need in 2022 by addressing the root causes of the crisis targeting those who are impoverished and at-risk but not yet in need, supporting people to build their resilience and recover from humanitarian need, and pivoting available development resources to reach those with needs whom humanitarians are not able to reach.
Evolution of needs
2021-2022 The ongoing political, socioeconomic and protection crisis in Myanmar is fuelling growing humanitarian needs. The outlook for 2022 remains dire, with the key drivers of need – conflict, COVID-19, economic stress and statelessness – all continuing to negatively affect the population. The political and security situation is expected to remain volatile, with increased and protracted displacement anticipated. The devastating third wave of COVID-19 appears to be breaking as 2021 draws to a close. However, a damaging fourth wave, due to relatively low vaccination rates and the emergence of new variants of the virus, is a risk in 2022. Associated COVID-19 precautions and restrictions are likely to be a continuing factor for the people of Myanmar and the response in 2022. Because of the poor performance of domestic food markets, prices are only expected to decrease marginally with the next harvest, while farm gate prices will likely remain low. As a result, consumer prices are projected to be higher than the seasonal average, in a context of decreasing incomes. Yields are expected to be below normal, partly due to localized dry conditions, but especially due to the disruption of agricultural markets, further impacting on food security. The unrelenting stress on communities from the combination of COVID-19, financial pressures, food insecurity, political instability, conflict and violence, as well as the threat of landmines and other explosive hazards is having an undeniable impact on the physical and mental health of the nation, particularly the psychological well-being of children and young people.
Women, children and persons with disabilities (PWDs) are particularly vulnerable amid this economic and protection crisis, exposing them to risks of exploitation and abuse, including gender-based violence (GBV). The risk and incidence of human trafficking, already on the rise in 2021, is expected to further escalate in 2022 due to increased mobility and the use of unsafe migration as a negative coping strategy. In areas affected by conflict, entire communities, including children, are being displaced. This increases the risks being faced by children regarding all forms of conflict-related violence including killing, physical injury, trafficking, recruitment and use in armed conflict, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest, and unlawful detention of adolescent girls and boys.4 In 2020 and 2021, learning has been disrupted for almost 12 million children – nearly all of the school-aged population – due to widespread COVID-19 school closures, taking away the protective and life-saving support offered by education. Although schools began to reopen towards the end of 2021, in many parts of the country, the prospect of a full return to formal education remains slim for many children who are in COVID-19 hotspots, are affected by confl ict or poverty, or whose parents are resistant to sending their children to schools managed by the de facto authorities. These interruptions will have catastrophic long-term consequences for children’s development if they continue. Even for those who attend school, there is a likely shortage of trained educators due to teachers’ high level of participation in the CDM. This has resulted in an increased care burden on mothers and other women family members. Areas that are reliant on alternative forms of education will require more time and resources to strengthen community-based solutions, although this is complicated by access constraints, the economic deterioration and the COVID-19 health crisis. Similarly, the public health system’s ability to meet the country’s needs has been under severe strain due to COVID-19 and since the military takeover due to the large number of medical personnel joining CDM.
Unmet needs in 2020 and 2021 because of access constraints and service interruptions have directly contributed to escalating needs heading into 2022.
Unmet needs will only compound, the longer access constraints persist.
Scope of analysis
Given the dramatic deterioration in the situation over the course of 2021 and the anticipated depth of needs in new areas, the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) has adopted a broader national analysis of the humanitarian situation in Myanmar in 2022, applying a vulnerability lens to calculate the number of people in acute humanitarian need, with food security predominantly used as a proxy indicator of intersectoral needs. The 2022 numbers refl ect the unprecedented scale of the humanitarian implications from recent events, especially for women and children.
This new national methodology more accurately frames the situation in Myanmar as a whole-of-country, complex and multi-dimensional crisis, where there are grave protection risks, and food insecurity is deepening, requiring scaled-up humanitarian interventions to stop people slipping into more severe need, including treatment for acute malnutrition.
In the absence of national, multi-sector needs assessments, food insecurity data was mostly used as a proxy basis for determining intersectoral vulnerability, as it is the only sector with recent data suitable for nation-wide extrapolation. This change in approach, combined with a worsening situation on the ground, has resulted in the identification of a much greater number of people in need (PiN) in the HNO. The joint intersectoral analysis process identified 14.4 million people in humanitarian need in Myanmar in 2022 (6.9 million men, 7.5 million women, 5 million children). It is important to note that it is not possible to directly compare the numbers for 2022 to past years as a very different and broader methodology has been used. It is likely that some of the humanitarian needs identified for 2022, as part of the new national analysis, were pre-existing but had never been previously quantified because of the narrower geographical scope which was heavily focused on Kachin, Rakhine and northern Shan, while addressing smaller pockets of vulnerability in Bago, Kayin and southern Chin. No baseline of humanitarian needs data exists for many new areas.
The situation in 2022 is also unpredictable, with a range of risks and opportunities that could overturn planning assumptions. Due to these uncertainties and the heavy reliance on proxy data for this initial analysis, the HCT has committed to a revision of the needs and response analysis in mid-2022, if not earlier, once more nuanced data and projections become available.
Because of the dramatic deterioration in the situation since 1 February 2021, combined with COVID-19, needs are deep and widespread across the country affecting people from many different walks of life. The HCT’s new vulnerability-sensitive approach still covers those who are directly “shock-affected” such as displaced and disaster-affected people, but now also looks more broadly at those who are struggling to survive and are facing food security and protection risks throughout the community. Thus, a new population group of ‘vulnerable people with humanitarian needs’ has been added.
• Internally displaced people (IDPs)
• IDPs who have returned, resettled or locally integrated into communities • Non-displaced stateless people
• Vulnerable people with humanitarian needs This HNO applies protection, gender, age, disability, mental health and accountability lenses to its analysis with sex and age disaggregated data used throughout, where it is available.
Humanitarian conditions, severity, and people in need
The deteriorating context and a change in methodology have resulted in approximately a quarter of the population or more than 14 million people being classified as having humanitarian needs in 2022. Although not directly comparable, this is up from the combined 3 million people identified in the 2021 HRP and Addendum in July 2021. This increase is driven by the social, economic and health impacts of COVID-19, worsening food insecurity, as well as conflict-driven displacement and protection needs since the events of 1 February 2021. It is also partly the result of the new national methodology outlined above. The humanitarian needs estimate was calculated using the Joint Intersectoral Analysis Framework (JIAF) approach (data scenario B5), which looks holistically at the needs facing people in Myanmar and measures the severity of these needs, mostly using food security figures as a proxy guide to intersectoral need.