Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Myanmar
Myanmar is currently in the middle of a challenging transition to democracy amid ongoing human rights violations. With 32 percent of the population living below the poverty line, Myanmar is considered one of the most underdeveloped countries in Southeast Asia. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about living conditions in Myanmar.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Myanmar

  1. Energy. As of 2017, over 25 percent of all households in Myanmar use solar energy to power their homes. From 2015 to 2017 the number of households with electricity access — solar and otherwise — increased by 1.1 million, which accounts for about 2 percent of the population. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, to this day, more than 60 percent of households in villages are still not connected to the public grid.
  2. Water. Most areas of Myanmar have abundant rainfall, but some residents still need to transport water from the source to where they live, increasing the risk of contamination. In the Rakhine state, the floods from the 2015 cyclone have damaged access to clean water for 78 percent of villages. However, efforts by PLAN International to clean ponds and build rainwater catchment systems are underway to provide relief.
  3. Education. Literacy rates in Myanmar are now promisingly high at 80 to 90 percent depending on the state. The gender gaps in literacy have also closed and high school enrollment rates have doubled over the last decade. In the same time period, middle school enrollment rates have also risen 20 percent.
  4. Employment. The number of people working in Myanmar has been on the rise, as well as the percentage of households earning income from non-agricultural work. In particular, the number of women employed in Myanmar has increased by over 5 percent in the last decade.
  5. Housing. Housing materials vary greatly due to accessibility to resources, geographic and socioeconomic reasons. According to the World Bank, “eight in 10 households had a quality roof in 2017, compared to four in ten in 2005.” Newly found accessibility to quality roofing materials like corrugated iron has lead to this increase.
  6. Freedom of Expression. When Myanmar’s newly elected government, the National League for Democracy (NLD), took office in 2016 hopes were high for long-awaited law reform. However, under the NLD freedom of expression is still being regularly repressed and restricted with large numbers of peaceful activists, critics and journalists being prosecuted.
  7. Technology. Smartphones have seen the most rapid growth of any consumer good in the past decade and are the most commonly used technology in Myanmar. The majority of households in Myanmar do not own or use a computer, with 10.9 percent being by far the highest ownership rate (in the city of Yangon).
  8. Sanitation. When it comes to sanitation there are again large differences between rural and city areas when it comes to accessibility. For example, only half of all homes in Rakhine have a toilet whereas, in the rest of the country, 94 percent of people have a toilet in their home. PLAN International helps by providing basic sanitation needs and teaching the importance of things like washing hands to stop the spread of diseases.
  9. Refugees. Since 2017, mass killings of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine have forced over 900,000 Rohingya to flee human rights violations. However, these refugees are now trapped in refugee camps in Bangladesh facing monsoons and flooding seasonally. Out of all Rohingya refugees, 55 percent are children. Due to intensely cramped living conditions, diseases spread rapidly and sanitation facilities are lacking. Sexual violence also remains to be a pressing issue in the camps, in addition to psychosocial suffering. U.N. agencies and humanitarian organizations are providing assistance with food, water and shelter. Additionally, organizations provide psychosocial aid, health and sanitation services when possible.
  10. Child Protection. Due to economic problems and violent government instability, there are currently over 460,000 children in need of humanitarian assistance. Organizations like UNICEF and Save the Children are working to provide psychosocial support as well as other nutrition, and sanitation based support to thousands of children. UNICEF’s WASH team is working to provide clean water, access to toilets as well as promoting the importance of handwashing in order to help with basic health and sanitation needs. Access to these three aspects (clean water, toilets and hygiene services) all together help support one another to alleviate the risk of disease in struggling areas.

The current situation in Myanmar is very complicated and clearly presents some challenges to mend the gaps between living conditions in rural versus city areas.

Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disasters and Impoverished Countries
Just when one might think that impoverished people are facing enough difficulties, they become enlightened about other tragedies that make life more dismal for these people. According to Britain’s Overseas Development Institute, there is an overlap between countries already facing extreme poverty and countries that are more likely to be devastated by natural disasters.

Fortunately enough, this combination has occurred before so future governments and organizations will know what to do when such tragedies strike again. Countries have recovered. There is hope that these other countries will not face travesty forever. In the text below, some cases of natural disasters and impoverished countries who were able to recover are presented.

Myanmar

In 2008, Myanmar was struck by Cyclone Nargis that left a total of 138,000 people either dead or missing. Cyclones are not the only natural disaster that Myanmar is prone to. Earthquakes, floods, droughts, tsunamis and landslides also affect the country. Since 2012, climate change has affected the country greatly.

The organization Give2Asia has been present in Myanmar in previous years. Give2Asia is a network of charitable communities from over 25 countries throughout the continent. Their work in the country consists of breaking down the components that affect Myanmar’s economy and people the most and improving the situation in these fields.

The population most affected by natural disasters are the urban and rural poor, the agriculture population and communities that live on the coasts. The Give2Asia states that poverty is both the cause and result of natural disasters. Majority of the population depends on agriculture and fishing livelihoods to survive, so when a natural disaster hits and destroys all of their hard work, it is understandable that this cycle continues.

Because of this, many nongovernmental organizations and the Myanmar government began implementing disaster and risk reduction measures. Some of the measures are as following: early warning systems, adapting agriculture to climate change and creating disaster-proof buildings.

An example of an organization that has helped Myanmar in the past is Ar Yone Oo (AYO), that was put together shortly after Cyclone Nargis. The group targeted vulnerable and poor areas of Myanmar that were affected. After helping in the aftermath of Nargis, the group stressed the importance of implementing educational programs in poor communities aimed at learning these people what to do in the face of disaster. AYO was able to increase emergency preparedness in two townships as well as the entire Chin state of Myanmar.

Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004

The tsunami of 2004 affected 10 countries in South Asia. The death toll was over 200,000, over a million people were injured, and tens of millions of people were displaced. Relief Web calls this natural disaster “the single biggest challenge ever faced” by international aid, especially from nongovernmental organizations. This tsunami was an example of how natural disasters and impoverished countries are often connected.

Australian nongovernmental organizations and aid were able to prevent the suspected second wave of death, usually caused by disease, due to their quick response time and ability to provide clean water to the injured. By June 2005, Australia had committed and spent around $34 million on disaster relief in Indonesia alone. Australian organizations such as the Australian sectors of Red Cross, CARE, Caritas, Oxfam and World Vision were all publicly funded by the country and gave further aid to the affected countries. Due to this grand effort by just one continent, reconstruction was possible. The organizations consulted local communities on how they wanted to be restored so that the communities could build back better.

Work of the Indonesian Government

The Indonesian government also valued community input, which was a bold step at the time. Because they prioritized what the people wanted, they were able to create jobs and homes for the community and lessen the poverty rate. The government created programs that aimed to provide the best recovery for the whole population.

The Indonesian Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (also called BRR in the country) was a group that worked for four years to rebuild Indonesia, specifically Aceh. During this time, the organization constructed over 140,000 houses, 4,000 kilometers of roads, 1,700 schools, 1,100 health facilities and 13 airports. Not only that, but the organization provided jobs for 40,000 teachers and gave out 7,000 fishing boats. Through caring for the livelihoods in the communities, this and other organizations were able to help these countries recover.

These stories are important to remember when looking to the future of disaster recovery and how to help already impoverished countries. By looking at the correlation between natural disasters and impoverished countries, and seeing what can be done to prevent total devastation, the terrifying future of repeated natural disasters might not be as bad predicted. Other countries can learn from the nongovernmental organizations in these cases, as well as Australia’s incredible effort.

– Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Myanmar Child Soldiers
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, might be on its way to achieving democracy but it is still far away from achieving a stellar record when it comes to human rights. This becomes especially evident in the case of child soldiers.

In this article, the top 10 facts about Myanmar child soldiers will be presented, one of the biggest problems this nation is currently facing.

Top 10 Facts About Myanmar Child Soldiers

  1. According to Human Rights Watch, Myanmar has the highest number of child soldiers in the world. Children are army members of both confronted sides- the national army as well as rebel groups in the ethnic minority regions outside the capital of Yangon. Roughly 350,000 soldiers make up the Burmese army with an estimated 20 percent of them being child soldiers.
  2. The children are usually taken against their will from public areas, such as parks and train stations in their town. They are often abducted and forced to be conscripted. If they refuse, they are threatened with jail time.
  3. After the 2008 Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar, many families were separated and many identification documents were destroyed or damaged. This made easier for the army recruiters to prey on the vulnerable children, particularly orphans since there is no one to identify and protect them.
  4. One of the examples of exploitation of children for army purposes can be seen in the Northern Rakhine state. It has been verified that 53 boys have been used by the Border Guard Police for various purposes that include maintaining the camps, as well as constructing and carrying equipment.
  5. The largest ethnic opposition groups, the United Wa State Army, has the largest number of forcible child conscripts. Another notorious group, the Kachin Independence Army, is the only military group in Burma that recruits girls.
  6. Boys as young as 12 are forced to fight and to commit human rights violations against the civilians that they are made to round up. This includes setting villages on fire and carrying out extrajudicial killings.
  7. Human Rights Watch has urged the Burmese government as well as all opposition ethnic rebel groups that forcibly recruit children under the age of 18 to stop the practice and release all current child soldiers. It has also called for these state and non-state actors to cooperate with international organizations such as UNICEF.
  8. In June 2012, the Burmese government signed a Joint Action Plan with the government and armed groups to take steps in order to reintegrate the child soldiers into civilian life. The plan also entailed allowing U.N. workers to access military bases.
  9. Since signing the deal in 2012, the government has released 924 children, according to a statement released by child protection agency UNICEF.
  10. The government has released 75 child soldiers in 2018 as part of the above mentioned process to end decades of forced recruitment of soldiers under the age of 18.

In conclusion, Myanmar’s development will be incomplete without the eradication of the problem of child soldiers. As long as the ethnic groups and the official Myanmar Army continue to use child soldiers to fight in their wars, the twin path of democracy and development are still a long way off.

Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

Radio NafAt the start of 2017, the refugees of Rohingya fled in the thousands from Myanmar. Today, many of their lives are still in disarray as they search for family, look for new homes and deal with the trauma from the violence that drove them out of their country.

Rohingya refugees often lack the information to take the next steps towards these goals. The use of media within camps has been vital to dealing with the emergency and keeping refugees connected with each other and the outside world, so Rohingya refugee media has been given a new voice: Radio NAF.

Radio NAF: A Voice for the Voiceless

In times of crisis like this one, access to information is almost as vital as food, shelter, and water. Local media can and has been used as a platform to update refugees on the status of their hometowns, educate them on sanitary practices and guide them toward necessary resources. Moreover, media has been used as a platform for refugees to voice their experiences and call the rest of the world to action.

Radio NAF is a community-based radio station in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh. The station serves the rural and underserved communities in the region, which also happens to be home to the largest Rohingya refugee settlement, Kutupalong. The station interviews refugees and discusses the issues that affect them.

Due to the poor radio reception in these areas, all of the shows are prerecorded and brought to the communities through seven “listener clubs.” While the population in the settlement has declined slightly, listenership and attendance have risen, indicating that this is an invaluable source of information for those that come to and remain at the settlement.

But, another reason for the influx in attendance could also be the station’s ability to provide a voice to the voiceless. The station’s interviews allow individuals and groups in the settlements to make statements and send messages that reach far beyond the Rohingya refugee community. Its programs also tackle important issues like violence against women, and it also provides entertainment of the children in among the refugee, who comprise more than half of the population.

British Broadcast Corporation Media Action

Radio Naf is backed by the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC). BBC’s international development charity, BBC Media Action, has worked in conjunction with local Radio Naf employees—some of whom are refugees themselves—to analyze the issues and needs of the Rohingya refugees as told by the Rohingya refugees themselves.

The charity focuses its efforts on alleviating these specific problems, but it also shares all of its information with the United Nations, NGOs and governments working to mitigate the crisis. Through Rohingya refugee media, the people have the ability to make their voices thoroughly heard and get the message out to these organizations for swift and proper actions.

BBC backed Radio Naf has uncovered sanitary, financial, linguistic and logistic issues that continue to persist in the Rohingya refugee camps while sharing crucial necessities and calls to action to key players in the relief, which has been the focus of Radio Naf and its interviews. But, in order to bring about progress, this hope must be met with an eagerness to hear their voices and act on those issues.

Rohingya refugee media is an essential component to connecting refugees and working to alleviate some of the pain and misfortune that they have lived through. It has developed a platform for the spread of hope. This hope, after even a year into the crisis, echoes from community to community, from settlement to settlement.

– Julius Long
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in MyanmarIn an interview with UNICEF Myanmar, one father, living in the impoverished Rakhine state of Myanmar, stated that his main hope for his daughter’s future is that she gets a good education.

Even as considerable progress is made by the government and humanitarian organizations, girls’ education in Myanmar continues to persist as a problem plaguing the millions of girls entrapped in the cycle of poverty. However, this is a problem that can and hopefully will be solved.

In the text below, top 10 facts about girls’ education in Myanmar are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Myanmar

  1. Education is a constitutional guarantee in Myanmar, which is a clear sign of the government’s support for this issue. Thus, any girl who wants to attend school has the legal right to do so.
  2. While schools are technically free from fees, a myriad of hidden costs such as uniforms, supplies and even transportation can prove to be an inhibiting factor in a girl’s ability to attend school. Many girls are forced to help their families in the workforce rather than go to school, earning money and helping immediately instead of investing it in their education.
  3. The majority of girls in Myanmar attend primary school. As USAID survey has shown, 77 percent of girls were reportedly enrolled in primary school in 2000, in comparison to boys at 78 percent. Although there is no gender gap regarding primary school enrollment, there is a gap in secondary school enrollment: most girls drop out, either by choice or the constraints of poverty. This trend is further illustrated by the fact, reported by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, that roughly 1.7 million girls over the age of 15 are illiterate in the country.
  4. Girls’ education in Myanmar is complicated by the fact that there are 135 ethnic minority groups within the country. Thus, inequities exist between the accessibility of education for girls of different ethnic backgrounds. For example, the recent outbreak of violence against the Rohingya Muslim ethnic minority has caused 727,000 people to flee to Cox’s Bazaar refugee camp in Bangladesh. Given the limited resources in refugee camps, young Rohingya girls face an uphill battle in receiving an education while displaced.
  5. Many young boys in Myanmar have been mobilized as allies in the fight for girls’ education. In interviews conducted by UNESCO Bangkok in partnership with the Myanmar Literary Resource Centre, young boys living in and around the city Yangon were brought to tears discussing the plights their female counterparts face. One boy, Htun, declared, “If girls are happy and have access to basic rights like education, they can find better work, do more and earn more. Everyone will be happier, right?”
  6. Many geographical constraints prevent girls from attending schools. In addressing this issue, within the past three years, the government has started developing an informal education office to aid and support informal education measures, such as religious-based schools or certificate programs. This new office is entitled as the Department of Alternative Education.
  7. UNICEF is one of the largest supporters of informal schools, recognizing the power of girls’ education to combat poverty in some of the poorest states of Myanmar. This organization has built schools and programs around the country. One of the examples is the work in the Yangon region.
  8. Nonprofit organization GirlDetermined has taken an innovative approach by specifically targeting young girls’ potentials as future leaders. By engaging them in workshops all over Myanmar, they are mobilizing a new generation of girls who do not only have the capacity to lead but the belief that they can as well.
  9. Making room for girls in schools ensures they have a safe space, helping prevent sexual assault and harassment. The United Nations Population Fund realized the correlation between these two issues, so on November 25, 2015 (the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women), they launched a campaign across girls’ and women’s centers in Myanmar, posing the question: “Everyone benefits from girls’ education. How have you?”
  10. Educated girls from Myanmar are changing the country. As reported by The Guardian, a group of girls who participated in GirlDetermined’s education and empowerment workshops took their skills to the streets, crafting and publishing a statement on the lack of female representation in Myanmar’s parliament. Their actions created a ripple effect, leading to other women’s groups to call for more women in the country’s politics as well.

Girls’ education in Myanmar sits at the intersection of pressing global issues, namely poverty and sexual assault.

Empowering girls through education will not only improve the futures of the girls themselves but the future of Myanmar’s economic and political standing in the global system as well.

– Miranda Wolford

Photo: Pixabay

poverty and dictatorship

Among the 10 dictatorship countries profiled, poverty is endemic. Poverty alleviation in these 10 dictatorship countries is in some cases associated with human rights abuses, violent crackdowns on the political opposition and indigenous people. In the last two decades, however, some of these countries have moved towards embracing democracy, which has brought an influx of government institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and foreign investment working to promulgate poverty alleviation.

The State of Poverty in 10 Dictatorship Countries

  1. Cambodia – In June of 2018, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was officially qualified as a military dictator by Human Rights Watch. Through an environment of fear, Cambodia has been littered with human rights abuses, crackdowns on the opposition, coercion and repression of the media. In September of 2018, the United Nations Development Program stated that 35 percent of all Cambodians are still poor regardless of the decline in the Multidimensional Poverty Index. In 2006, the Ministry of Planning established the IDPoor Programme to guide government services and NGOs to provide target services and assistance to the poorest households. As of December 2017, The IDPoor Programme has assisted 13 million people and has covered 90 percent of Cambodians.
  2. Cameroon – Current Prime Minister, Paul Biya, seized control of Cameroon from his fellow despotic predecessor in 1982. Biya has since ruled the central African country with an iron fist. In 2014, 37.5 percent of the people were living in poverty. However, a development NGO called Heifer Cameroon has been playing a positive role in alleviating the strains of poverty for Cameroon’s most poor and vulnerable communities. Heifer Cameroon has assisted 30,000 families by spurring job creation among the rural poor through focusing on the dairy industry along with other livestock.
  3. Eritrea – Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, took power after its independence and has since entrapped his citizens in a cloud of fear. Furthermore, the nation was rocked by internal war, drought and famine. According to estimates of The World Bank, 69 percent of Eritrea’s population lives below the poverty line. Despite these conditions, Eritrea has drastically improved its public health conditions. Indeed since its liberation, life expectancy has increased by 14 years to 63 years. And over 70 percent of the population now has access to clean water, compared to just 15 percent in 1993.
  4. Ethiopia – In 2000, Ethiopia had one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, but by 2011, the poverty rate had fallen by 14 percent. In 2018, Ethiopia became Africa’s fastest growing economy in the sub-Saharan African region. However, some of the country’s development schemes have been wildly unpopular, such as the mass land-grab that is displacing Ethiopians so the government can lease out the land to foreign investors. On the other hand, some developments have actually made improvements in average household health, education and living standards.
  5. Madagascar – Madagascar has experienced a long period of political instability since its independence in the 1960s. Current President Hery Rajaonarimampianina was democratically elected in 2014. Rajaonarimampianina has prioritized recovering Madagascar’s relationship with foreign investment agencies, like The World Bank, IMF and The African Union. Unfortunately, in 2018, 75 percent of Madagascar’s population are still living under the poverty line.
  6. Myanmar – From 1966 to 2016, Myanmar existed under a military dictatorship that bore multiple wars spurred out of hatred and persecution of Rohingya Muslims and Christians. The crackdown and ethnic cleansing created a major refugee crisis. Today, Myanmar is reportedly inching towards democracy, but the military, headed by Gen. Than Shwe, still has major sway. In 2015, 35 percent of the population of Myanmar lived in poverty.
  7. Rwanda – Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime is often associated with maintaining peace and stability since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. However, critics of Kagame cite numerous human rights abuses and fear that the President is leading the country towards dictatorship. Still, Rwanda has taken major strides in addressing and decreasing the poverty rate. Between 2000 and 2010, the poverty rate declined by 23.8 percent. Recent economic growth within the country has been evenly distributed and pro-poor, with the majority of the Rwandan population benefiting from this economic growth.
  8. Sudan – President al-Bashir came to power in 1989 and reigned with a brutal dictatorship in Sudan until his exile in 2015. Poverty in Sudan is endemic. In 2018, 2.8 million were in need of humanitarian aid and 4.8 million were food insecure. Such high rates of poverty engender low literacy levels, crumbling infrastructure, little to no access to health services and high rates of food insecurity.
  9. Tunisia – President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali headed Tunisia’s dictatorship until 2011 when he was ousted by a people’s revolution. However, that stability was maintained by the military, which performed countless human rights abuses. However, poverty reduction strategies have rung successful as the poverty rate in Tunisia fell by 10 percent from 2000 to 2015.
  10. Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe, who was the President of Zimbabwe for 37 years until 2017, had long been seen as a dictator and is attributed by The Economist as “ruining” Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s policies led to hyperinflation and an infrastructure system in disrepair. Build Zimbabwe Alliance claims that 72 percent of the population still lives under the poverty line. The main causes of poverty in Zimbabwe are the economic recession of 2008 and global warming’s impact on agriculture.

These 10 dictatorship countries have taken strides in increasing access to education, healthcare and economic growth. Such programs have been most successful in regards to pro-poor poverty reduction. The political outlook of some of these countries is improving, but there is still a lot of work needed to improve poverty in all of the countries listed.

– Sasha Kramer

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in MyanmarMyanmar is the second largest country in Southeast Asia but has one of the least developed economies in the world. Food security in the country is threatened by natural disasters, isolationist policies, conflicts and ethnic violence. Millions of people are living below the poverty line. It is important to know the top 10 facts about hunger in Myanmar to help illustrate food insecurity conditions in the country.

What are the Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Myanmar?

  1. Approximately 25.6 percent of the 53 million people living in Myanmar (formerly Burma) is below the poverty line. According to the World Food Program U.S.A. (WFP), around 298,700 people don’t have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food and are in need of food assistance. Women, people with disabilities, the elderly and minorities are the most affected.
  2. The Human Development Index (HDI) measures basic human developments, taking into account variables such as life expectancy, years of schooling and income. According to the index, Myanmar ranks at 148 out of 189 countries. The majority of the country’s population, almost 70 percent, live in rural areas where poverty is two times as high and food insecurity conditions are much worse than urban areas. Statistics from the World Bank in 2015 show that 6.4 percent live with $1.90 a day.
  3. Children are more prone to illness and infections when their growth and development are hindered due to a poor diet. In Myanmar, 29.4 percent of children under five have stunted development. According to statistics from 2016, 18.9 percent of children are underweight.
  4. The infant mortality rate in Myanmar is high because of malnutrition: for every 1,000 live births, there are 35.8 deaths. According to 2012 statistics from UNICEF, the child mortality rate was 52 for children under five. For a child’s development, it is crucial to receive adequate nutrition in the first weeks and years of their life. Malnutrition and stunting in infants can reduce if mothers breastfeed their children for the recommended six months. Save the Children is an organization that aims to provide nutrition information and encourages mothers to breastfeed their babies. Their nutrition programme works to ensure that families have access to, and can afford, nutritious food.
  5. The average rate of enrollment in primary school is close to 88 percent. 75 percent of those children make it to fifth grade. However, about half of those students finish school; the net completion rate is 54 percent. Poor families in rural communities cannot afford to send their children to school or provide enough food for them. These children eventually discontinue their education and start working. The WFP aims to keep children in school by providing school lunches.
  6. Myanmar is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and is one of the top 10 countries most affected by climate risk. Extreme climatic conditions such as irregular or heavy rainfall threaten its agriculture which contributes 30 percent of the national GDP. As many as 85 percent of the households in Kayah, a state in eastern Myanmar, frequently experience food shortages due to environmental challenges.
  7. Myanmar heavily relies on agriculture and faces many challenges. The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program aims to fight poverty, malnutrition and hunger by implementing agricultural sustainable development programs. The Climate-Friendly Agribusiness Value Chain Sector Project in the Central Dry Zone (CDZ) of Myanmar plans to implement $27 million to decrease food insecurity for the rural poor. The projected impact of the project targets 100,000 people, in eight townships across the CDZ,  half of whom are women.
  8. Floods, food insecurity, armed conflicts and inter-community violence create waves of displacement. In fact, more than one million people in Myanmar have been displaced since June 2011. According to Action Against Hunger, there are around 863,000 people who need humanitarian aid in Myanmar, 241,000 of which are displaced. Being forced to flee their homes also means these families leave behind their livelihoods. Refugees and internally displaced people are left with no means of securing meals for themselves.
  9. Tuberculosis and HIV patients have higher nutritional needs during their treatment periods, and Myanmar has one of the highest number of patients. TB rates are among the highest in Asia, and Myanmar is among the 20 high TB burdened countries. It is also one of the 35 countries that has 90 percent of new HIV infections in the world. The WFP offers food assistance to 17,000 patients to ensure treatment adherence and success.
  10. Food security and malnutrition are accompanied by issues such as the lack of access to water and sanitation. According to an estimation from 2015 by the CIA World Factbook, 19.4 percent of the population didn’t have access to improved drinking water sources such as piped water, protected wells or springs. In 2017, Action Against Hunger’s nutrition and health programs reached 31,233 people. 9,344 people benefitted from water, sanitation and hygiene programs while 9,837 people utilized food security and livelihoods programs. The organization’s operation in the country started in 1994 and in 2017, it helped a total of 50,414 people.

These top 10 facts about poverty in Myanmar may paint a grim picture but the country has developed in many ways from 1990 to 2017. It reached the Millennium Development Goal of reducing hunger by half in 2015 and its HDI value has increased by 61.5 percent,i.e. from 0.358 to 0.578. Life expectancy has increased by 8 years and the mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling increased by 2.5 years and 3.9 years respectively.

Many organizations that work on alleviating poverty and ending hunger help thousands of people each year. However, the above top 10 facts about hunger in Myanmar show that there is still a lot of work to be done.

– Aleksandra Sirakova
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in MyanmarMyanmar, a small Southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma, is one of the three poorest countries in Asia. In the text below, top 10 facts about poverty in Myanmar are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Myanmar

  1. More than 32 percent of the Myanmar population live below the poverty line, according to a study conducted by the World Bank. In 2010, the national poverty line was measured at 19.4 percent. Compared to its neighbor, Cambodia, whose rates stand at 14.0 percent, there is still a long way to go towards the goal of eradicating large-scale poverty in Myanmar.
  2. Between 66 and 70 percent of the Myanmar population live in rural areas and depends heavily on low-tech fishing and farming largely for subsistence. This exacerbates the gap between the urban and the rural, with the U.N. stating that rural poverty is twice as high as in urban areas. The government mostly invests in extractive industries such as gas, oil and hydroelectric power rather than focusing on agricultural needs.
  3. Within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, Myanmar had the lowest adult life expectancy at 66.04 years in 2015, according to the data that the World Health Organization (WHO) published. The breakdown between males to females show that women have a slightly better average life expectancy rate at 69 years compared to 65 years for men.
  4. Myanmar also has the second highest child mortality rate in the region, since 6.2 out of 100 children die before they turn one year and more than 7 percent die before they reach their fifth birthday. In 2014, the government spent only 3 percent of its GDP on health. In comparison, 13 percent of GDP was spent on defense.
  5. Many people in the country, particularly in rural areas, do not have access to basic infrastructure and services. Two-thirds of the population do not have electricity and there is a low road density at 219.8 kilometers per 1000 square kilometers. Poverty in Myanmar cannot be eliminated if a large portion of the population has no access to rudimentary technology that can be used to conduct transactions and access transport.
  6. Myanmar’s attempts to control the AIDS epidemic among the working population have largely been successful. The figures currently stand at less than 1 percent infected, according to the United Nations. On May 17, 2017, The Ministry of Health and Sports launched its latest five year HIV plan, called “90-90-90.” It has a goal that 90 percent of HIV positive people know their status, 90 percent of those aware of their status receive treatment and 90 percent of those living with HIV have suppressed viral loads.
  7. With the World Bank’s National Electrification Project, around 1.2 million people who live in rural areas have either new or better access to electricity. This affects 140,000 households and introduces community-based solar electricity systems to combat poverty in Myanmar.
  8. Tuberculosis (TB) incidence has decreased dramatically since 1995 and the goal of reducing TB mortality rates below 50 percent set in 1990 was achieved by 2010. The death rate from TB fell by more than 40 percent between 1990 and 2011.
  9. Poverty in Myanmar has been on the decline, decreasing from 44.5 percent in 2004 to 26.1 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank. Rural and urban poverty have both been decreasing, although at a faster rate for the urban dwellers. Consumer purchases of motorcycles, indicating greater disposable income, has increased to over 42 percent of households in 2015, from 10 percent in 2009.
  10. The government has made plans to spend more on education, and under the National Sector Education Plan, spending increased from $251.8 million in 2013 to $1.2 billion in 2o17. The government has also planned to use a 5 percent tax on mobile phones for education, which will allow the government to hire a larger number of teachers and improve access to free education.

In conclusion, although Myanmar has made significant strides in the process of eradicating poverty, it still has a long way to go before achieving parity with other developed and even developing nations in the region.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

Helping Burmese Refugees in Buffalo, New YorkIn the past decade, Buffalo has become home for refugees from all around the globe, but more than 8.000 of these refugees come from Burma. These refugees started arriving over a decade ago when resettlement agencies invited them to become Buffalonians after the George W. Bush administration made a near-secret diplomatic deal with Burma. Throughout Buffalo, there are numerous organizations helping Burmese refugees as they come in.

Organizations Helping Burmese Refugees in Buffalo, New York

  1. Journey’s End Refugee Services –  This organization’s mission is to assist refugees in becoming “healthy, independent, contributing members of the community.” This year alone Journey’s End has resettled 418 refugees in Buffalo. Refugees have to go through numerous interviews and screenings before they are put into the hands of Journey’s End, but once they are, they are given anything they could possibly need. Refugees arriving have a variety of needs, some need a translator, someone to take them out to get food and clothes, someone to find them a job and a home, but some refugees only need to be pointed in the right direction with little help along the way. The staff at Journey’s End is trained to deal with either extreme, as well as everything in between. This organization has turned thousands of people from terrified Burmese refugees into Buffalonians. Journey’s End has made it possible for native Burmese people to make a community and a home in Buffalo. It is where home begins again.
  2. International Institute of Buffalo – This organization believes that refugees and immigrants are critical to the economic strength, population growth, workforce and business growth, home ownership and the expanding cultural richness of Western New York. Their services include welcoming refugees into Buffalo, employment and housing support. The International Institute also works very hard to foster connections between those working with refugees and ethnic community leaders and native-born residents in order to get refugees more involved and more comfortable in the community. This social services organization also monitors the ethnic community organizations, including the Burmese Community Support Center. There has also been work with city block clubs to connect with foreign-born neighbors, as well as the establishment of the Buffalo Region Immigrant and Refugee Roundtable. This organization has made it possible for refugees to get connections around Buffalo, as well as giving them the chance to talk about what they are going through, so they feel less alone and more at home. The International Institute of Buffalo has gone above and beyond in order to make Burmese refugees, as well as refugees from all around the world, feel at home in Buffalo.
  3. Burmese Community Services – This is another organization helping Burmese refugees get settled into Buffalo, providing any assistance they might need along the way. It is tailored specifically towards Burmese refugees. Their services include aiding the poor and distressed, eliminating prejudice and discrimination, promoting the social welfare and defending human and civil rights secured by law. They also collaborate with stakeholders in Buffalo to address the needs of the growing population of Burmese people in the area. This non-profit organization also aids with school registration, food stamps, Medicaid, home energy assistance and re-certification of The Department of Social Services. This allows refugees to get help whenever they need it, no questions asked. Burmese Community Services provides a place where help can always be given to those Burmese refugees in need of it as well as a place for people of the same nationality to come together as a community.

All three of these organizations helping Burmese refugees have made a huge difference in their lives. These refugees have somewhere to go if they need help with almost anything. They have gone from terrified refugees to an integral part of the Buffalo community. Because of these organizations, there is a community for Burmese people to help them integrate into Buffalo, a place that they can call home. But, even though some Burmese people have been able to flee, a lot of people remain in terror and devastation in Burma. They can be helped by refugee organizations once they are in the U.S, but foreign aid is the only way to help Burmese people who are still living in fear of being killed every day.

– Megan Maxwell
Photo: Flickr

Health Education in MyanmarAlthough Myanmar has significantly reduced its poverty from 48.2 percent in 2004 to 32.1 percent in 2015, poverty still inhabits about a third of the population. Furthermore, of the 15.8 million people living below the poverty line, 13.8 live in rural areas. This disproportionate distribution of the poor is correlated largely with the limited reach of health education in Myanmar. 

The Need for Health Education in Myanmar

Rural children’s growth, physically and cognitively, is often stunted by poor basic health education including that of HIV, malnutrition, and high infant mortality. Health issues are especially detrimental to the welfare of rural households as income is often based on agricultural jobs that are physically demanding. Poor health education which results in poor health, in turn, damages the labor market and the economy. The World Bank, in its assessment of Myanmar’s poverty, foresees increased growth especially in rural areas, and health education is one of their most important priorities as a part of its Country Partnership Framework program.

Myanmar has benefitted from successful collaborations from organizations within the international community.

  • The World Bank: Since 2015, about 5.4 million people have benefited from the World Bank’s support of better schools, and stipends have given 150,000 more children the opportunity to study. Development of more health clinics and corresponding services are reducing extreme poverty in Myanmar. Infectious diseases and child mortality rates are lowered by the strengthening of national health systems and education curriculum.
  • USAID: USAID along with Global Development Alliance partner P&G collaborated to educate people from central and eastern Myanmar on how to prevent diarrheal diseases which is common among poorly informed citizens. So far this year, these organizations have assisted about two million people in achieving an understanding of proper sanitation habits. Health education in Myanmar can lift communities out of a vulnerability to conflict and build more resilience to preventable diseases.
  • UNICEF encourages increased government investment from its natural resources to education and healthcare to alleviate Myanmar’s socio-economic issues. In the fiscal year 2012-2013, Myanmar’s government only spent 2.3 percent of its GDP on the social sector while surrounding Southeast Asian countries spent more than twice as much on education and healthcare. This neglect continues to result in malnourished, poor street children and high child labor.

Innovative Strategies to Increase Health Education in Rural Areas

Many poor villages in Myanmar are popular regions for human trafficking activity, and thousands of children without access to relevant medical information are victims of preventable diseases. About 260,000 people have HIV, many of whom are poor.

In response to the trafficking crisis and other health issues affecting young Myanmars, some innovative strategies are now in place.

  • The Mandalay Marionette Theatre utilizes face-to-face learning through puppet acts as an effective and innovative strategy to make health education accessible and memorable to children from rural backgrounds. While more affluent countries are exploring the educational uses of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, this puppet group advocates for its emotionally engaging productions. “When children experience an exciting event, they continue to talk about it when it’s over. It enforces a peer effect. They begin to ask each other, ‘Did you actually wash your hands and practice good hygiene?” says Dr. Shakuntala Banaji, a communication scholar at the London School of Economics, who recognizes the potency of puppet entertainment for education.
  • The Myanmar Red Cross, partnering with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, initiated an education program that uses television and film to cover different relevant health topics for remote communities. It has provided 40 villages with TVs, speakers, solar panels and more, to make media a reliable educational tool. This technology provides a positive system of change to understanding and implementing safer health habits. The educational videos cover many first aid topics. The ones in higher demand instruct people on how to maneuver commonplace perils such as snake bites and burns. These videos also combat many uninformed, indigenous beliefs. Malaria, a common threat in Mogok, was falsely understood to be a result of eating certain plants. A village administrator has learned otherwise from video sources and has informed the people of other effective preventative methods to protect themselves from the actual source of malaria, mosquitoes.
  • The ‘Mama Oo’ radio drama series of 2015-2016 is another creative means of stimulating change in attitudes regarding maternal and child health. An entertaining way of imparting more information on maternal and child health issues to the community, this radio show provided a convenient way through short episodes of understanding the eight key health messages approved by the Ministry of Health.

The current government prioritizes education as the core of its reform strategy with the ambition of lifting its country into the ranks of upper-middle-income countries by 2030. The different innovative strategies for disseminating important messages regarding good health is evidence of these efforts. Inclusive health education in Myanmar serves as one of the most important roots to tend to as the country climbs out of poverty.

– Alice Lieu
Photo: Flickr