Humanitarian and political background
After fifty years of military rule, Myanmar welcomed a new era of democracy and reform with its first civilian elections in 2015. However, the newly formed government still faces the same issues as before. Known as the “longest running civil war,” internal conflicts led by ethnic groups struggling for power have afflicted Myanmar since the country’s independence in 1948.
Increasing numbers, decreasing access
Because of increasing domestic and international pressure, the military government stepped down in 2011. With a civilian government in place, ethnic minorities still fight for power in the new Burmese government.
In December 2015, chronic fighting broke out in the Kachin and Shan States in northeastern Myanmar. This remote region in the northeast is known as the “forgotten conflict”. Air attacks and clashes added thousands more to the displaced population. Aid organisations have a hard time reaching many of the displaced people in Shan State.
Community health workers are also badly needed in affected areas. Nearly half of the residents of Ke See Township IDP camp in Shan State have reported health problems, including diarrhoea, respiratory problems, and fever – all of which can be addressed with community-based health services.
The “longest running civil war”
The roots of the rebellions in Myanmar go back to the anti-colonial movement against the British, and continue today largely along ethnic lines.
1962 saw the overthrow of the civilian government and establishment of an authoritarian military junta. The junta responded to opposition with force, arresting ethnic group leaders and using violence against protesters.
Hundreds of thousands have been displaced since the decades-long conflict began on numerous fronts. Ethnic minorities still agitate for independence or self-determination, and the conflict continues to drag civilians through violence in five states: Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Rakhine, and Shan.
People we helped in Myanmar in 2016
NRC in Myanmar
In 2008, we established our country programme in Myanmar. Our goal is to help the most vulnerable people, regardless of political, religious, or ethnic ties. We still struggle to get our assistance through, because of government restrictions and security concerns.
Southeast Myanmar is one of the most unstable regions in the country. Many of our projects target people living in southeast Myanmar, as they are suffering from long-term instability and conflict. There are many people from the southeast who have fled across the border and live in Thai refugee camps, and we also work with them.
Access is a major problem for all humanitarian actors in Myanmar. Often, we do not have a clear picture of peoples’ needs, as the authorities do not let us enter. To address this, we are working with different governments as well as international organisations to change government policies.
Despite these challenges, our goal is always to help those most in need. During 2015, we helped 220,333 people through shelter, school construction, water, sanitation and hygiene services, civil documentation, youth education and camp coordination.
All of our activities are managed from seven field offices within the Southeast Region, Kachin and Rakhine States.
I learnt so much! I worked hard to share my knowledge with the committee members and villagers, it was not easy.
Naw Shwe Thet Wah Oo attended community mobilization and development fellowship training (2016)
In 2013, we started a vocational and life skills education programme for displaced youth and returnee refugees in southeast Myanmar. We work closely with community members to develop programmes tailored to their needs.
These projects aim at equipping youth with knowledge and skills to make safe life choices and give them stable ways to earn a living.
Our education activities provide:
Vocational and life skills training, through courses in dress making, food preservation, motor bike repair and construction apprenticeships.
Business-oriented courses on basic business planning, marketing and accounting.
Basic education classes teaching literacy and numeracy.
We will continue our education and youth programmes in other areas of Myanmar.
Our Shelter activities:
Build durable shelters and permanent schools for displaced people.
Develop a community forestry project to replace the timber used in construction.
- Persuade Myanmar's government to allow people to stay on the land where we build schools and shelters without fear of eviction.
Information, Counselling and Legal Assistance (ICLA)
Through our Information, Counselling, and Legal Assistance programme, we:
Work with refugees who fled across the border into Thailand, to inform them of their rights and help available to them.
Help people get the right civil documents, like birth and marriage certificates.
Camp coordination and camp management
NRC supports the management of camps for internally displaced people in Rakhine state. Working in partnership with the camp residents and leaders, we promote the respect of minimum standards and basic rights of internally displaced people.
In our work, we seek to:
Strengthen and expand the work of existing camp management programmes, and build their capacity.
Improve protection and basic services in the camps.
- Drive forward solutions to end internal displacement and help prepare internally displaced people for life after camps.
“I want to be buried with my husband”
Her family had already fled and her husband died years ago, but Labang Lu refused to leave her home. Until soldiers began shooting at her kitchen window.
Alarming lack of assistance to people in Myanmar’s Northern Rakhine
Lack of permissions from Myanmar’s authorities for humanitarian organisations in Northern Rakhine State to do their work has left vulnerable civilians stranded without necessary support, warns the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Call for immediate humanitarian access
One month since the 25 August attacks and subsequent security response, INGOs in Myanmar are increasingly concerned about severe restrictions on humanitarian access and impediments to the delivery of critically needed humanitarian assistance throughout Rakhine State.