Following the formation of the first civilian government in early 2016, Myanmar is still facing complex political and socio-economic challenges which compromise the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal to end hunger (SDG 2).
Myanmar remains one of the least developed nations in the world with an estimated 38 percent of the population living near or below the poverty line. Most people in the country struggle with physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food with women, girls, the elderly, persons with disabilities and minorities affected most due to discrimination, including customary laws and traditions.
High food insecurity rates are particularly prevalent in isolated zones of Chin, Kachin, Rakhine, Sagaing and Shanpredominantly inhabited by ethnic minorities, as well as in many areas of the Delta and the Dry Zone with higher population densities.
Ethnic conflicts and violence have left hundreds of thousands of people displaced in Kachin and Shan since June 2011 and in Rakhine since August 2012. The attacks on the border outposts in October 2016 and August 2017 and ensuing violence forced nearly 700,000 Muslims living in Rakhine State to flee Myanmar and seek refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh, causing a humanitarian crisis.
The country’s susceptibility to natural disasters also leads to massive displacement and destruction of livelihoods, crops and other food sources. Since 2002, more than 13 million people have been affected by natural disasters, including severe tropical cyclones Nargis in 2008, Giri in 2010, Komen in 2015 and Mora in 2017, which caused major flooding.
Nearly one in three children under the age of 5 suffers from stunting (short height for their age) while wasting (underweight for their height) prevails at 7 percent nationally. Myanmar is one of the world's 20 high tuberculosis (TB) burden countries. It is also among the 35 countries accounting for 90 percent of new HIV infections globally. Men and boys are more likely to suffer from HIV due to seasonal migration to border areas where unsafe drug injection and high-risk sexual behaviour are common. Education remains inadequate at all levels. Seventy-four percent of children who enrol complete primary school, but less than half complete middle school and even fewer progress onward. Girls are more likely to drop out of school at an early age to serve family needs.
Despite challenges, Myanmar has achieved the Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger by 2015 and reached lower-middle income country status in the past decade. As the second largest country in Southeast Asia, Myanmar continues to be one of the fastest growing economies in the region. Industry and services continue to accelerate with increased foreign investment, rapid expansion of the telecommunications sector and emerging financial service providers.
WFP implemented its first operation in Myanmar in 1978 and established an office in the country in 1994. WFP’s work on Myanmar seeks to implement nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive food assistance supporting crisis affected people to meet their food needs; enhance the resilience of vulnerable communities by strengthening the ability of government institutions to provide social protection programmes; and improve nutrition.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Myanmar
Crisis responseWFP provides unconditional food or – where markets are functioning – cash assistance to people affected by conflict or inter-communal violence and natural disasters whose livelihood options are limited or non-existent. WFP currently targets 245,000 internally displaced and conflict affected persons in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine State. The monthly basic food basket comprises rice, pulses, oil and salt, or its cash equivalent. WFP also supports Myanmar refugees returning from Thailand through six-month cash assistance to help with their initial reintegration.
National capacity strengtheningWFP provides technical advice, policy support and training for government bodies to improve delivery of national social protection, emergency preparedness and nutrition programmes and food systems. Activities include workshops and simulation exercises, as well as support in the form of equipment.
School mealsWFP implements the school meals programme for 430,000 pre-school and primary students in 4,600 schools during a nine-month academic year. Children receive either midday biscuit snacks or recently introduced on-site cooked school meals with locally-procured WFP food complemented by other ingredients contributed by parents and the community. WFP supports the development of the national school feeding programme.
Food Assistance for AssetsWFP provides a basic food basket or cash-based assistance combined with nutrition messaging to 17,000 women and men from marginal and vulnerable population groups as they participate in the creation and rehabilitation of community infrastructure. These activities are often carried out as an early recovery measure to support the rebuilding and restoration of people’s livelihoods. WFP promotes equal wages for women and men through community sensitization.
Food-by-prescriptionTo ensure nutritional recovery and treatment success, WFP targets 21,000 people living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and tuberculosis patients on directly observed treatment, short-course (DOTS/DOTS-Plus) with a food basket, specialized nutritious foods and counselling support.
NutritionTo improve nutrition of children under 5 and address stunting, WFP provides pregnant and breastfeeding women, adolescent girls and children with specialized nutritious foods or cash assistance combined with a comprehensive nutrition package. This contributes to meeting their nutrient needs and to prevent and treat malnutrition. WFP targets more than 150,000 pregnant and nursing women, adolescent girls and young children.
Partners and donorsAchieving Zero Hunger is the work of many. Our work in Myanmar is made possible by the support and collaboration of our partners and donors, including:
- Grassroots Empowerment and Ecosystem Nurturing (GREEN)
- Rahmonnya Peace Foundation (RPF)Renewable Energy Association Myanmar (REAM)