A market in downtown Yangon (c) Ben Small/UNDP

Addressing poverty in Yangon's poorest areas

Urban resilience

Poverty growing in urban areas

Yangon’s poorest inhabitants have long lived on the fringes of the city where basic services are hard to come by, informal settlements common, economic opportunities limited and legal protections poor. Following COVID-19 and the military takeover in February 2021, the city’s inhabitants face unprecedented new pressures, with education disrupted, jobs lost as businesses close and companies pull out of Myanmar, and increasing costs of living as incomes fall. This is pushing the urban poor further into poverty.

A UNDP survey projected the poverty rate in peri-urban Yangon to triple from 13.7 percent in 2017 to 41.9 percent in 2022. Meanwhile, a quarter (24.1 percent) of people living in eight of Yangon's poorest townships have often not had any income in the last 12 months, a new UNDP report shows. This is leading to dangerous coping strategies, with people reporting that they are eating less, forgoing health care, selling assets and even taking their children out of school to work.

Ma Lin Lin fills a bottle with clean drinking water at the facility she leads in Yangon's Hlaingtharya Township (c) Ben Small/UNDP

Ma Lin Lin fills a bottle with clean drinking water at the facility she leads in Yangon's Hlaingtharya Township

UNDP/Ben Small
How we are responding

UNDP is aiming to address urban poverty in Yangon through the Urban Resilience Project (URP), a joint initiative with UN-Habitat and UN Women. It focuses on eight townships identified as the most socially and economically marginalized, aiming to reach more than 450,000 people.

It aims to strengthen residents’ resilience by supporting community-led groups to improve basic services and facilities, upgrade the physical environment of informal settlements, address gender-based violence, and promote livelihoods through building people's skills and creating jobs.

This includes working with the Step-in Step-up Academy to provide vocational programs in areas such as hospitality, health care, security, maintenance, cooking and entry-level office work, for young people. 

The project is also working with WaterAid to operate water filtration system and bottling plants to provide affordable, clean drinking water to low-income communities. One facility provides 20-liter bottles for just 250 MMK ($0.12) – the same amount people were paying for a bucket of dirty water before. The women-led enterprise model means people in the community who operate the plant will be provided with sustainable and reliable incomes long into the future.

"When they got sick, they could not afford their hospital bills and because of their low income, they could not spare any money to buy clean water. So, it was a never-ending cycle back then. We now have access to clean water, and we can earn extra money from this work. Since then, the number of people getting sick dramatically decreased in the village. Women in our group have jobs now and earn their own monthly incomes," said Ma Lin Lin, who leads a water bottling plant.


  • 600 people have completed vocational training programs, with almost all the trainees who graduated securing full-time employment. 
  • more than 26,000 people now have better access to clean water.