At the beginning of 2016, an estimated 547,000 people were in need of humanitarian assistance in Myanmar. This included about 424,000 vulnerable people in Rakhine and about 123,000 people in Kachin and Shan states.
In Kachin State, as a result of the armed conflict that restarted in 2011, about 86,000 people remain displaced in 141 camps/sites, of which about 77 per cent are women and children. More than 40 per cent of the displaced people are located in areas beyond Government control where international actors have limited humanitarian access but where local humanitarian organizations continue to be able to operate, despite increasing constraints. In Shan State, there are some 11,000 displaced people remaining in 38 camps that were established in 2011. About 78 per cent of these people are women and children.
In the final quarter of 2016, the humanitarian situation in Kachin and northern Shan became increasingly worrying with intensified fighting between the Myanmar Military and ethnic armed groups newly displacing thousands of people. Partners have witnessed a dangerous trend of intensified fighting in and near civilian areas of Kachin and Shan states posing grave protection risks.
With fluid front lines and so many people on the move in conflict areas, there are serious risks posed by landmines. There are persistent reports of forced recruitment by armed groups. During 2016, humanitarian access continued to be severely constrained throughout non-Government controlled parts of Kachin and Shan. Since June 2016, the Government has not permitted any cross-line access for the United Nations and other international organizations to provide food and other humanitarian support to about 40,000 displaced people living in areas beyond Government control.
Rakhine is one of the least developed areas of Myanmar, with a diverse ethnic and religious population. Historical tensions, issues of identity, religion and ethnicity, longstanding underdevelopment, human rights concerns and militarization remain the defining features of the operational environment for humanitarian organizations in Rakhine State. The situation is critical for more than one million Muslims, most of whom call themselves ‘Rohingya’, whose citizenship status remains unresolved and who continue to be subject to discriminatory policies and practices.
In central Rakhine, the majority of displaced persons remain confined in camps and continue to face severe movement restrictions, limiting their access to healthcare, education and livelihoods opportunities and increasing dependence on humanitarian assistance. The 120,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have lived in camps since 2012 are accommodated in over-crowded collective shelters known as ‘long-houses’. The long-houses and other facilities in the IDP camps were originally constructed in 2012-13 as a temporary measure. Many of these buildings require continuous maintenance or repairs to ensure that minimum living standards are met. The future of these camps remains a critical issue for the year ahead.
A series of attacks on Border Guard Police posts on 9 October 2016 which killed nine police personnel, as well as subsequent security operations by government forces, triggered a new humanitarian crisis in the northern part of Rakhine State. Hundreds of houses and buildings were burned, many people were killed and thousands fled their homes. More than 70,000 affected Muslim people crossed into Bangladesh and an estimated 20,000 people were internally displaced.
Allegations of widespread human rights violations have been documented among those who have newly arrived in Bangladesh. In the aftermath of the attacks, humanitarian services for vulnerable populations were suspended until the end of the year creating new needs and exacerbating preexisting vulnerabilities.
Myanmar was also affected by more natural disasters in 2016. Monsoon flooding in 2016 temporarily displaced more than half a million people and many others were severely affected, particularly in terms of food security. Strong winds, heavy rains and hail storms in April affected around 40 townships across Chin, Kachin, Mandalay, Rakhine, Sagaing and Shan. From February to June 2016, Myanmar also experienced the effects of El Niño including extreme temperatures, unusual rainfall patterns, dry soil, high risk of fires and acute water shortages. Water shortages were compounded by damage to many ponds during the previous floods in 2015, leading to an overall reduction in available pond water. Myanmar regularly experiences earthquakes. The 6.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Myanmar in August was the fourth tremor higher than magnitude 6.0 since 2008. While the damage in this sparsely populated region was relatively small, an earthquake of this size in Yangon would be likely to have a far greater impact.