Yangon, Myanmar, 27 February 2023 — The International Rescue Committee (IRC), funded by the European Union (EU), has implemented critical protection and health support operations in the Northern Shan, Rakhine, Chin, and Kachin States of Myanmar. The programme's aim has been to reinforce a protective environment and increase access to essential services for the most at-risk populations, such as internally displaced communities, the elderly, women, and children. The EU has supplemented these activities by making a contribution of 2 million euros.
Escalating conflict in Myanmar since February 2021 has resulted in a vicious cycle of repression and armed resistance, driving up needs, constraining humanitarian access, and contributing to both the collapse of basic services and an ever-growing economic crisis. Against this backdrop, the Myanmar kyat has devalued, leading to a sharp increase in poverty. Almost 40% of the country's population is under the poverty line, and 17.6 million people are currently in need of humanitarian aid.
The IRC began work in Myanmar in 2008, providing humanitarian relief in response to Cyclone Nargis. Since then, the IRC has expanded its work to support communities affected by conflict and disaster and provides services directly and in partnership with local organisations and service providers. The response includes healthcare, water and sanitation, protection, women’s protection and empowerment, and support for basic needs. The focus is on reaching communities, even those in the most remote parts of the country.
Since the onset of programming, the IRC has been able to reach almost 137,000 individuals since March 2020, providing them with legal services, health, safety, psychosocial and material support through the provision of dignity kits. The IRC has also collaborated with communities and local partners to tackle gender-based violence, increasing awareness of preventative measures, and services in case of response. Community members as well as leaders were engaged in awareness-raising activities to challenge and transform negative gender norms and power dynamics. The clients learned to identify safety and security concerns of women and girls, and acquired tools and information to seek support.
In parallel, the IRC's provision of medical supplies has enabled the delivery of vital health assistance in a sustainable and inclusive manner. Along with this, it has strengthened the humanitarian capacity of local NGOs and partners, helping them respond to emergencies alongside the IRC.
Richard Orengo, IRC Myanmar Director, said:
“Expanding conflict over the last two years has severely shattered the Myanmar economy and civilian livelihoods. For Burmese families, many of whom have been forced to flee their homes, every day is a struggle to meet their basic needs: to live in safety, to eat sufficiently, and to find shelter. However, they continue to search for hope and stability in their daily routine. Thanks to funding from the European Union and the cooperation with our partner organisations, the IRC staff on the ground are fully able to help people in need access their basic rights, be resilient, and better cope with crises. Continued funding is essential to prevent people from losing access to basic services.”