More Than Two Million Lives Empowered: Enabling Recovery and Hope in Myanmar’s Crisis
February 8, 2024
In an environment where life and survival sit on a razor’s edge, and fear permeates each day for the people in Myanmar, UNDP is working against formidable odds to try to improve the situation on the ground. UNDP has reached 2 million very vulnerable people, adding to the 4 million reached by the humanitarian agencies. It is among the few agencies with wide-ranging access and trusted relationships with a broad range of stakeholders across the country.
Three years on from the military takeover, stories across the country chronicle the danger and desperation that continues to mark each day, for many in Myanmar. The deepening conflict and crisis has plunged the country’s economy into turmoil, taking income and jobs with it, and collapsing public services. The impact of it all is wearing on millions of people, as they struggle to make it through each day.
The economy has entered a phase where the growth rate has reached rock bottom and plateaued, showing no signs of recovery. The World Bank downgraded the growth projection for 2024 from three percent to one percent. Farm incomes are hardest hit, and states and regions where the conflict has intensified are the worst affected. Migration is rampant, often the only lifeline for people who have exhausted all other coping mechanisms. For development and humanitarian agencies knowing where to focus their efforts, under such precarious circumstances, has become a challenge.
A joint UNDP and UN Women survey found that in this dire environment, women face a disproportionate share of negative consequences as incomes fall, employment opportunities decline dramatically, unpaid work burdens increase, and insecurity and fear rise.
Insecurity is both physical due to widespread conflict, but it is also about the vulnerability that arises from the lack of social safety nets, money, and livelihood. Without these, many are eating less, forgoing healthcare, taking on unsustainable debts, and selling assets.
Research by UNDP’s Myanmar Development Observatory continues to provide vital data that enables it to pinpoint Myanmar's most vulnerable populations and deliver services and support to address their growing needs.
When Cyclone Mocha devastated large parts of the country in May 2023, and while the SAC imposed huge constraints on humanitarian actors, UNDP reached over 700,000 people, supporting them in repairing homes, clearing roads, and distributing seeds to improve food security. Community water infrastructure was rebuilt providing a sustainable solution owned and managed by the community. UNDP showed that in emergency conditions, a hand-up was as important as handouts.
Ma Mya Win, who fled fighting to a camp in Sittwe in 2019 and participated in UNDP’s debris clearance, said; “I have become jobless as the tailor shop I used to work in was destroyed by the cyclone. The building collapsed to the ground. I am thankful I found this job while waiting to be back to my tailoring job. I will use this money to buy food for my family.”
In 29 townships across eight states and regions, a community-driven resilience-building project has reached more than 750,000 people, predominantly in rural areas, restoring and supporting livelihoods, rehabilitating community infrastructure, and building social cohesion.
In the Tanintharyi Region, startup investments for mangrove-friendly businesses and technical support have helped preserve mangroves building livelihoods, such as clam farming and beekeeping, while helping people see the intrinsic value in mangroves, which are critical defenses along Myanmar’s coastline, to combat sea level rise.
Along with the rebuilding of infrastructure and livelihoods, UNDP has trained nearly 100 Civil Society Organizations on vital development issues that include human rights, labor rights, gender equality, and the rule of law.
Such knowledge contributes to better leadership, empowers local stakeholders, protects workers, and ensures accountability and transparency at the local level. This support has also provided 90,000 people from minority ethnic groups with legal assistance on housing, land, and property rights.
The focus is on accompanying and building capacity. Support also goes beyond communities and CSOs to the private sector. The Myanmar Sustainable Business Network (MSBN), brings together 770 businesses, to help contribute to meeting Myanmar’s current challenges, and improve responsible business practices.
UNDP’s goal is to build on solid foundations and partnerships to reach eight million people across 77 townships, by the end of 2025. This is another step in what will be a long journey through the crisis. But UNDP is well-equipped and committed to facing the challenges the future may bring.
Our effectiveness in this highly insecure context is enabled by a high level of trust nurtured through the on-the-ground presence of skilled national staff, actively engaging with communities, and stakeholders in an impartial manner.