Myanmar/Burma is the country with the highest risk of humanitarian crises in north and south east Asia, and ranks 12th worldwide. For more than half a century, a series of internal conflicts has affected a great number of civilians. More than 300 000 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. The United Nations estimates that more than half a million 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, more than 1 000 000 people from the minority Rohingya Muslim community are also stateless and deprived of basic rights, including freedom of movement. Inter-ethnic clashes in 2012, have resulted in some 120 000 people internally displaced, living in camps and entirely dependent on international aid. A deadly assault by Rohingya insurgents on multiple police posts in northern Rakhine on 25th August triggered a new cycle of violence, prompting more than 530 000 civilians to flee across the border into Bangladesh over the course of a month. 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. In Kachin and Shan states, prolonged armed conflicts have also taken a heavy toll on the local population. To date, some 98 000 people remain displaced following clashes between armed groups and security forces.
The European Union, through its Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations 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. This figure includes an allocation of €9.7 million for 2017. Since 2013 a total of €2 650 000 have also been provided for emergency education to conflict-affected children in the framework of the EU Children of Peace.
In Rakhine state, the European Commission has been working for many years with its humanitarian partners to address 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 Commission extended its humanitarian aid to all displaced people in need; the Commission 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 Commission is also providing 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 European Union has also responded to a number of natural disasters in Myanmar/Burma over the past two decades. Most recently, in late May, when Cyclone Mora wreaked havoc across several areas along the country’s western coast, with Rakhine state being the hardest hit, the Commission 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 European Union's international commitments, the EU 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 have been allocated between 2010 and 2017 for coastal flood-prone areas and urban earthquake risks measures, particularly in the financial capital of Yangon.