Burma/Myanmar is a country vulnerable to natural disasters, and which has been experiencing conflict in several border regions for more than four decades.
Since the new government took office following elections in November 2010, cease fires have been concluded with many of the ethnic groups. However, in June 2011, armed conflict resumed in Kachin State, resulting in a humanitarian crisis which has displaced at least 75,000 people. In western Burma/Myanmar, Rakhine State has seen an outbreak of communal violence in June and October 2012 forcing some 110,000 people to flee their homes. Due to security concerns, many international aid organisations face difficulties carrying out their operations. Access still remains limited, particularly outside the main towns.
As well as the ethnic tensions, Burma/Myanmar is regularly exposed to natural disasters, such as cyclones, floods and earthquakes. In 2008 Cyclone Nargis killed 140,000 people and destroyed thousands of homes in the Irrawaddy delta. In 2010 Cyclone Giri made landfall in Rakhine State, causing destruction and loss of life.
The European Commission, through its Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) has been funding relief programs in Burma/Myanmar since 1994.
In 2012 the European Commission allocated €18.5 million to address the basic humanitarian needs of over one million vulnerable people in Burma/Myanmar affected by conflict, natural disasters or ethnic tensions, particularly along the eastern border with Thailand, in Kachin, Chin and in Rakhine State. The Rohingyas in Rakhine State are one such group of beneficiaries. They have little or no access to social services and health facilities, and malnutrition is wide-spread, particularly among children. In 2012 ECHO has allocated humanitarian aid worth € 8 million to Rakhine state, benefitting both Muslims and the Rakhine community.
Another group of beneficiaries are victims of the conflict in Kachin State, to whom ECHO has provided €5 million of humanitarian aid in 2012. To reduce the impact of natural disasters and improve the capacities of communities at risk to better prepare and protect themselves from disasters, ECHO set up the DIPECHO (Disaster Preparedness ECHO) program in 1996. For 2012-2013, €1.65 million has been allocated to projects implemented by specialised partners in the coastal areas and earthquake prone regions.