February 1, 2022 marks the first anniversary of the coup in Myanmar. On this occasion, Jean-Loup Gouot, Country Director of SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL, gives an alarming overview of the situation and the challenges that the population has to face on a daily basis, in a context in which international funding is struggling to meet the growing humanitarian needs.
6.2 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Myanmar: these are the figures revealed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on December 31, 2021. A year earlier, the figure was nearly one million. We are therefore dealing with a massive explosion of needs, whether in regards access to food, drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, health, or education.
This dramatic situation is the result of the political and economic crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic and the overthrow of the civilian authorities on February 1, 2021. While rampant inflation makes essential goods increasingly difficult to access, tensions and violence in the country are causing large-scale population displacement and exposing hundreds of thousands of people to extreme vulnerability.
In addition, the humanitarian conditions have worsened for populations and ethnic minorities that were already in great difficulty. For instance, the Rohingya community, which has been displaced for nearly ten years, is in a particularly dire situation.
Faced with this catastrophic scenario, humanitarian actors and donors must respond to emerging needs while continuing to address pre-existing needs in a difficult operational context and with significant access restrictions.
In the Pauktaw IDP camps in Arakan State alone, where more than 20,000 Rohingya live, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has yet to secure the $2,700,000 needed to ensure the quality and quantity of access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene for the population for the coming year. These resources would allow the NGO to continue to address the logistical challenges of bringing clean water by boat to this remote area, cleaning sewage systems, and promoting good hygiene (which is especially critical during the pandemic).
If the organization is not able to raise the necessary funds, and as Myanmar enters a period of drought and begins to record its first cases of the Omicron variant, we could quickly be faced with a major health crisis, the spread of COVID-19, andalso that of waterborne diseases (e.g., cholera, acute watery diarrhea). These risks are all the more worrying for people living in IDP camps as their freedom of movement is often restricted and they are in areas highly exposed to natural disasters.
The contribution of all and a mobilization of funding efforts to support the deployment of humanitarian aid is urgent and indispensable.