The gender profile for humanitarian action in Rakhine, Kachin, and Northern Shan States, Myanmar was first developed in 2018. The profile was based upon collective inputs and consultations with humanitarian and gender stakeholders from national and subnational levels from United Nations, International and National NonGovernmental Organizations (INGOs and NGOs), and Civil Society Organisations, with technical and coordination support from UN Women in partnership with OCHA and UNFPA. The profile has since been updated annually, and in 2021 became a joint endeavour led by the Myanmar Gender in Humanitarian Action (GiHA) Workstream, UNFPA and UN Women.
The purpose of the GiHA profile is to provide a summary overview of the overall context for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls in humanitarian action in Myanmar and to highlight key sector-specific and crosssectional gender issues, needs, gaps, response efforts taken, constraints/challenges to address these, and finally recommend strategic goals and further action needed to strengthen gender mainstreaming. The profile is aligned with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Policy on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and Girls in Humanitarian Action (2017) and the IASC Gender in Humanitarian Action Handbook (2018). It serves as a consolidated snapshot of existing datasets, research, analysis, and assessments available.
In 2020 and 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic further complicated the lives of people in humanitarian settings across the country, resulting in significant economic and health impacts. On 1 February, 2021, the Tatmadaw, also known as the Myanmar Armed Forces (MAF), seized control over the Government, declaring a year-long state of emergency and detained the country’s top representatives, along with civilian Government officials and prominent civil society members, journalists, as well as countless civilians.
Prior to the coup, humanitarian needs in Myanmar were already vast due to protracted conflict, human rights violations, displacement and natural hazards resulting in 1 million people, of whom 33% women, 19% girls and 18% boys, in need of humanitarian assistance by the 2021 Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan. This includes 336,000 internally displaced people (of whom 29% are women, 20% girls and 21% boys - overall 70% of displaced). The largest population of persons in need are in Rakhine State with 806,000 people, and the second largest population is across Kachin State with 167,000 people in need. Women make up 53% of those in need of humanitarian assistance in Rakhine, and 48% in Kachin.
UN humanitarian actors in Myanmar have followed events in the country with concern, including reports of arbitrary detentions, arrests, use of excessive force, torture, sexual violence and harassment of protesters. The military coup has deepened humanitarian needs and conflict has intensified in multiple parts of the country, including areas that had not recently seen hostilities and triggering humanitarian needs in areas not previously targeted by humanitarian actors. UNDP has highlighted the compounding negative socio-economic impacts of the pandemic and political crisis, warning that nearly half of Myanmar’s population could be living in poverty by the beginning of 2022, with concerns that women and girls will pay the highest price. Economic disruptions from COVID19 and the consequent economic hardship increased risks of child marriage, while the closure of learning spaces disproportionately affected women’s ability to take up livelihoods as their care burdens increased.
Humanitarian response efforts have faced significant operational challenges including restricted humanitarian access, disruptions to the financial system and resulting cash shortages, heightened safety and security concerns, imposition of martial law in some areas, disruptions to telecommunications, and disruptions to supply chains and logistics. The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar have reaffirmed the commitment of the UN and its partners to stay and deliver humanitarian assistance and protection services to the affected populations.
The 2021 version of the GiHA profile includes an analysis of the gender-related impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the coup. Principles approaches and continuous community engagement are critical as is careful management of security risks and adaptation to the specificities of local context. Channels for dialogues with the de-facto authorities on safe and unhindered access are being pursued with a focus on areas of most acute need and local dynamics are being carefully observed.
Nevertheless, it is recognized that humanitarian actors in Myanmar are required to obtain travel authorization from de-facto authorities to transport and deliver humanitarian assistance, as well as to obtain relevant approvals for importation and clearance of commodities, including essential and lifesaving medications.
While the sector/cluster specific recommendations remain relevant when programming in the post-February 1 context, there will be a need for regular scanning and reflection on the gendered impact of humanitarian need as well as the impact on modalities and designs to deliver assistance given that the rapidly evolving context requires assistance in new geographical areas potentially with reliance on a smaller pool of partners who have access to affected populations.
Considering these changes in context, Kayin State has been included in the 2021 analysis. Kayin has been affected by decades of armed conflict and multiple waves of displacement and has recently seen significant increases in conflict following the military coup, and therefore capturing and documenting the gendered context for the above crisis areas is critical.