The humanitarian situation in Myanmar is characterized by a complex mix of factors. They include displacement and internal/external migration, vulnerability to natural disasters, protection and human rights concerns, food insecurity, chronic poverty and landmines.
Years of conflict and unresolved ethnic differences have contributed to the displacement of an estimated 590,000 people and an influx of refugees in neighbouring countries. Myanmar is also vulnerable to natural disasters; an estimated 290,000 people were affected by floods and an earthquake in 2012 alone. Despite being a resource-rich country, its population of over 58.31 million is among the poorest in the world.
In 2012, OCHA reinforced its field presence in Kachin and Rakhine States, which strengthened coordination with the Government and partners. The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) worked at the national level to strengthen sector and inter-sector coordination, with three clusters activated in December 2012: Health, Shelter/Camp Coordination and Camp Management, and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. Other sectors agreed to act “as if a clusters”.
OCHA broadened its engagement in contingency planning and preparedness, as well as capacity-building on disaster management. At the Government’s request, OCHA provided technical expertise to support the development of the disaster management law, review and update the Government’s disaster management curriculum and revise inter-agency contingency plans. In 2012, OCHA coordinated four inter-agency rapid assessments in crisis-affected areas using the form endorsed by the HCT in 2011.
The response plans for Kachin and Rakhine were agreed and launched; the latter was—for the first time—jointly launched with the Government. Regular donor briefings, information products, reports and maps with a specific focus on conflict- and natural-disaster-affected locations were shared with the Government, partners and donors to support better relief planning, common understanding of challenges and support for decision-making at all levels.
OCHA’s engagement in advocacy has led to increased access to conflict-affected areas of Kachin State and contributed to faster processing of bureaucratic requirements needed to access affected locations in Rakhine, including for assessment and assistance delivery. A communications strategy was developed to address communities’ misperceptions of humanitarian work in Rakhine.
In 2012, OCHA enhanced its working relations with key Government ministries to support strategy, planning and engagement on humanitarian issues. One resulting output was a Rakhine workshop, which focused on humanitarian, recovery and development assistance and reconciliation in Rakhine. OCHA also initiated dialogue to address civil-military coordination challenges with the Government and humanitarian agencies.
The Country Office facilitated access to emergency funds, mainly the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Humanitarian Multi-Stakeholder Fund (HMSF). In 2012, four CERF rapid-response applications were coordinated, resulting in US$16.6 million: $10 million for Rakhine and $6.6 million for Kachin. In 2012, the HMSF reached over 33,000 people, and geographic coverage and donor participation were expanded to better respond to humanitarian needs.
OCHA increased engagement with the Government across relevant line ministries to work on several issues–from preparedness and contingency planning to response strategies, to advocacy on humanitarian issues. This resulted in better planning; increased communications; opportunities to strengthen Government capacities; increased humanitarian space; and enhanced understanding of principles and their application.
Humanitarian partners continue to be challenged to respond to conflict and natural disaster situations simultaneously across the country, stretching capacities and available funds. The multiplicity of different crises further complicated the complex operating environment, where partners delivered aid while needing to consider the full range of humanitarian and development interventions.
Communications and outreach with communities receiving aid have required increased advocacy and research to understand perceptions on how assistance is provided. Humanitarian access and insecurity continue to require focused advocacy.