2021 in Review
Humanitarian situation in 2021
In 2021, Myanmar faced an unprecedented political, socioeconomic, health, human rights and humanitarian crisis with needs escalating dramatically following the military takeover on 1 February and a severe third wave of COVID-19. The expansion of the conflict into areas that were previously peaceful and clashes between Myanmar Armed Forces (MAF) and People’s Defence Forces (PDF) increased displacement and drove worsening needs. Civilians endured hostilities and insecurity, with hundreds of thousands displaced and vastes swathes of the country affected by the destruction and burning of homes and property.
COVID-19 cases and related deaths reached their peak in July of 2021 and declined for the remainder of the year. By the end of 2021, slightly over 531,000 confirmed cases were reported, with more than 19,200 fatalities. Testing was extremely limited, suggesting that cases were likely to have been significantly undercounted. The health, social and economic impacts of this third wave were devastating with the country struggling to cope with the combined shocks of the pandemic and the military takeover within six months. Low vaccination rates at the time of the third wave were a contributing factor. Vaccinations for those on the priority list, including senior citizens aged above 65, healthcare workers and volunteers, resumed in December across many parts of the country. By the end of November 2021, slightly over 28.7 million vaccine doses had been administered. Overall, access to health facilities remained challenging with the Civil Disobedience Movement seeing medical staff and patients boycott public facilities and significant gaps in alternative services. Aid partners supported access to care for COVID-19 and other essential services while sustaining life-saving humanitarian operations.
The number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) within Myanmar rose substantially in 2021. According to the UN, of the 690,000 IDPs in Myanmar as of 27 December 2021, about 52 per cent were women, and 34 per cent were children. Of the total, 320,000 were displaced because of armed conflict and insecurity since 1 February 2021. Most of the new displacement occurred in Myanmar’s northwest (Chin, Magway, and Sagaing) and southeast (Kayah, Kayin, Mon, and Tanintharyi) as well as in Kachin and Shan states. The new IDPs faced terrible conditions—some in camps, some in host communities and others in the jungle, without adequate food, shelter, sanitation, and medical care. The new IDPs are in addition to the 346,000 people already displaced in Kachin, Kayin, Rakhine and Shan states before February 2021. By the end of 2021, more than 19,000 people had crossed the borders into neighbouring countries since February 2021.
Security and access constraints
COVID-19 restrictions, limited availability of cash and supplies as well as road blockages due to armed conflict challenged the delivery of humanitarian aid. At the same time, increasingly slow and complex bureaucratic processes, including delays and denials of Travel Authorizations (TAs), the volatile security situation and increased scrutiny of humanitarian supplies and personnel, delayed the delivery of assistance. Humanitarian workers partnered with local civil society organizations (CSOs) and community-based organizations (COBs) to sustain life-saving responses in isolated areas that larger international actors could not reach.
People in need
Across the country, three million people needed assistance and protection 2021. This included one million people identified in the original 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) and another two million people subsequently identified in the Myanmar Interim Emergency Response Plan (IERP) in the wake of the February military takeover.
The total requirement for the two plans amounted to US$385.6 million (HRP 2021 at $276.4 million and IERP 2021 at $109.2 million). By December, the response plans were collectively 64 per cent funded at $246 million. Donors’ contributions to the MHF represented 8.5 per cent of the funding secured against both response plans combined.