Myanmar is the second largest country in Southeast Asia. The nation’s economy is one of the least developed in the world and is suffering the effects of extended isolation and stagnation. More than 13 million people—26 percent of Myanmar’s population—live below the poverty line and 3 million people are spending a high percentage of their limited income on food with a restricted diet that does not meet all their consumption needs.
Since the military takeover in February 2021, hunger levels in Myanmar have risen sharply, driven by the ongoing political crisis, poverty, displacement and the economic fallout from COVID-19. In April 2021, WFP estimated that an additional 3.4 million people could face hunger by October. This number would be on top of the estimated 2.8 million people already unable to meet their food needs prior to the takeover. The political crisis, compounded by the economic effects of COVID-19, is driving millions of families into hunger and desperation. The cost of a basic food basket has increased by some 30% compared to January 2021, while fuel prices have increased by 59-82%.
Development in Myanmar has been compromised by prolonged ethnic conflicts and intercommunal violence since its independence in 1948, resulting in massive displacement of people. In education, the net enrollment rate in primary schools is close to 88 percent, and 75 percent of children starting grade one reach grade five. However, the net completion rate is only 54 percent.
WFP implemented its first operation in Myanmar in 1978 in the northern Rakhine State and established its office in 1994. Today, 80 percent of households have lost nearly half of their income because of COVID-19. To meet these urgent needs, WFP nearly tripled its operations to assist 2.4M people in 2021 (up from 1M in 2020.)
WFP is working to reduce poverty, food insecurity and undernutrition, responding to disasters and increasing resilience among the most vulnerable. In 2021, WFP scaled up food distribution in urban areas for 2 million people in Yangon and Mandalay, the two most populous cities in Myanmar.
Nutrition – WFP provided nutrition support for 70,000 children, pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as HIV and tuberculosis patients to keep their immune systems strong.
Community asset creation – WFP strengthens community resilience by creating community infrastructures and provided cash or food for more than 7,600 people in exchange for participation in asset creation activities in 2021.
School meals – Since the closure of schools due to COVID-19, WFP has been working with communities to distribute take-home rations of high-energy biscuits to schoolchildren. Since May 2021, WFP has resumed distributions of high-energy biscuits as take-home rations for more than 85,000 children.