Myanmar/Burma is the country with the highest risk of humanitarian crises in Southeast Asia and ranks 12th worldwide (InfoRM). For more than half a century, the country has been marred by a series of internal conflicts that have adversely affected a great number of civilians. More than 241 000 people currently live in displacement with limited access to basic services. Restricted humanitarian access to certain areas hampers the ability of international aid organisations to provide crucial assistance to people in need. Recurrent natural hazards also increase the vulnerability of residents in disaster-prone areas.
Occasional flare-ups of violence, involving fighting between ethnic groups and the army, and their subsequent tensions have marred different parts of Myanmar/Burma for more than half a century. The United Nations estimates that more than 800 000 people in the country are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, including those displaced in the conflict-torn states of Rakhine, Kachin and Shan. In Rakhine State, close to one million people from the minority Rohingya Muslim community are also stateless and deprived of basic rights, including freedom of movement. A new cycle of violence in northern Rakhine, which started on 25th August 2017, forced at least 655 500 Rohingya to flee across the border into Bangladesh.
Restricted access to large parts of the state, in particular the northern region, has greatly hampered the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid in the area. The latest clashes come less than one year after a previous assault by insurgents on three border guard posts on 9th October 2016 sparked a series of violent incidents and military operations that saw more than 87 000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh in search of refuge. According to the United Nations, close to 130 000 people remained displaced in Rakhine as of December 2017. In Kachin and Shan states, prolonged armed conflicts have also taken a heavy toll on the local population. To date, some 106 000 people remain displaced following clashes between armed groups and security forces.
In 2017, the European Union (EU) allocated over €10 million in humanitarian aid to address the immediate needs of families affected by both natural disasters and conflict in Myanmar/Burma.
In Rakhine State, the EU has been working with its humanitarian partners for many years to address the protection, food, nutrition and health needs of the most vulnerable people, particularly in the northern townships. Following the outbreaks of violence in June 2012 and October 2016, which resulted in large-scale displacements of populations, the EU extended its humanitarian aid to all displaced people in need; the EU remains committed to doing the same for the victims of the August 2017 violence, for which humanitarian access is urgently required. Sectors of intervention include shelter, food and non-food items, nutrition, health care, water and sanitation, livelihoods support, coordination, education, and protection.
The EU also provides humanitarian aid to those displaced by the Kachin/northern Shan State conflict and living in camps. Along the eastern border, the EU has contributed to mine-awareness projects and to the rehabilitation needs of victims of anti-personnel mines, as well as supporting the Myanmar Indigenous Network for Education.
The EU has also responded to a number of natural disasters in Myanmar/Burma over the past two decades. Most recently, in late May 2017, when Cyclone Mora wreaked havoc across several areas along the country’s western coast, with Rakhine State being the hardest hit, the EU immediately allocated €500 000 to provide emergency relief assistance to the affected communities.
Another priority of the EU in Myanmar/Burma is disaster risk reduction, to increase the resilience of the most vulnerable communities facing recurrent natural hazards. In line with the EU's international commitments, the European Commission humanitarian aid department ensures that all its relevant actions lead to the reduction of disaster risks and to the improvement of communities' resources for better preparedness to natural disasters. In this context, €9.65 million were allocated between 2010 and 2017 for coastal flood-prone areas and urban earthquake risks measures, particularly in the financial capital of Yangon.
The European Commission, through its humanitarian aid department, has been operational in Myanmar/Burma since 1994. It has funded emergency relief programmes to assist victims of both conflict and natural disasters, with the total funding amount reaching nearly €230 million. Since 2013, a total of €2 650 000 has also been provided for emergency education to conflict-affected children.