A record 1 million men, women, and children are now internally displaced in Myanmar, the United Nations reports.
Of the unparalleled figure, almost 700,000 became displaced after February 2021, when Myanmar’s military seized control following the landslide win of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party. Peaceful protests against the brutal coup were initially quelled by lethal force, with increased conflict and insecurity continuing a year and a half later.
Among those displaced are members of the Rohingya Muslim ethnic group — who have been killed, raped, and targeted in the country for decades — as well as individuals affected by disputes along the international borders with China and Thailand.
"An estimated 40,200 people have crossed the borders into neighboring countries since the takeover,” the UN explained in its report on the situation. “More than 12,700 civilian properties, including houses, churches, monasteries, and schools are estimated to have been destroyed during hostilities, although figures are difficult to verify.”
The UN added: “The impact on civilians is worsening daily with frequent indiscriminate attacks.”
#Myanmar: Almost 700,000 of the 1 million people internally displaced by conflict and insecurity, fled after the military takeover in February last year.— UN Humanitarian (@UNOCHA) June 4, 2022
Find out more in our latest #Myanmar Humanitarian Update: https://t.co/m46t6ThuxOpic.twitter.com/q3tB3FlbMw
Rising living costs and the monsoon season are exacerbating the country's ongoing conflict.
According to the report, intense storms and heavy rains are damaging shelters and disproportionately impacting those already in need throughout the states of Rakhine, Kachin, Shan, and Kayin. At the same time, the cost of food and fuel has skyrocketed, becoming a "major concern to partners in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable people."
"On average, as of mid-April 2022, fuel prices are nearly two and a half times higher than February 2021,” the UN wrote. “Preparedness efforts by both humanitarian actors and the de facto authorities have been underway since the first quarter of 2022. More funding is critically needed to ensure efficient responses in the event of a wide-scale natural disaster.”
Leaders within the global humanitarian sector have now urged the international community to respond generously.
The nation’s Humanitarian Response Plan — dedicated to saving the lives and well-being of those affected by the conflict — has only reached 10% of its 2022 funding goal, leaving a US$740 million gap. If the remaining funds are not delivered, the UN warns humanitarian partners will be “forced to cut back their support at a time when assistance is needed the most.”
Since 2021, the military has blocked lifesaving foreign aid from reaching organizations on the ground.
Countries like Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, meanwhile, have expressed a strong desire not to see aid end up in the hands of the nation's military, causing delays and disorder as donors work to reestablish long-held government-controlled aid programs.
"We believe NGOs play a critical role in providing assistance and services in these challenging times,” read a 2021 joint statement from aid players in the country, including Oxfam and Save the Children. “We call upon all relevant authorities to ensure humanitarian access for national and international stakeholders.”
A report at the time suggested the coup, plus COVID-19, could push half of Myanmar’s citizens into extreme poverty.