With the military's control of the whole country back on February 1st, 2021, Myanmarcivilians sink into despair and the countrywide protests against the military's rule have been taking place. Simultaneously, the number of inter-ethnicconflicts between the military and ethnic armed groups has risen in Kachin State, Kayin State, and Northern Shan State since the military seized control in February resulting in several internally displaced persons in these conflicting areas.
The escalating conflicts between the military and ethnic armed groups have causedlots of pain to ethnic people who are residing in those conflict-affected areas. Due to the continuous attacks caused by the antagonistic relations between the Myanmar military and ethnic armed groups, ethnic people have to flee homes to escape those life-threatening incidents happening to them. Some flee into the jungles while others flee to neighboring countries such as Thailand and India to seek protection and shelter.
The ISP-Myanmar Peace Desk discovered that there have been almost 75 conflicts intotal happening in Kachin State, Kayin State, and Northern Shan State since the Feb 1 military coup. In light of these soaring armed conflicts in those ethnic areas, the number of IDPs is skyrocketing in just over two months bringing the total to more than 34,601 since the military coup in February. Most specifically, there are 501 refugees in Kachin State, 2,100 refugees in Northern Shan State, and 3,2000 refugees in Kayen State until April 17. From 2020 to the second week of April 2021, the number of people who fled away from their homes has exceeded 402,101.
In this battle for democracy, urgent comprehensivesolutions are needed as the basic needs and rights of Myanmar civilians havebeen lost since the coup. The continuation of the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (2018- 2030) is vagueand the need to consider IDPs in SDG implementation is necessary as Myanmar is one of the countries with high internal displacement. Even before 1 February 2021, nearly one million people in five states, including 336,000 IDPs, required humanitarian assistance and since the military takeover, clashes between the military forces and EAOs have affected parts of Shan, Kachin, Kayin, and Bago region mainly. The impacts of the coup on IDPs and Myanmar residents are huge and people from both urban and rural areas have to suffer. The inaccessibility of basic needs such as shelter, food & nutrition, health, water, sanitation & hygiene, and humanitarian assistance is alarming that the survival ofcivilians with more catastrophic threats ahead is at stake.
Shelter: People who flee their homes into the cave orjungle to seek protection are in serious need of temporary shelters. It isheartbreaking for them to feel and hide in the jungle without knowing when they can go back. No one knows when they can return or whether their homes would still be standing there when they do. Shelters are of vital needs for them to live and avoid raining.
Food & Nutrition: Since February 1st, there is a high risk of increasing food insecurityand malnutrition for vulnerable people including older people, women, men, andchildren. They are struggling to secure adequate food since being displaced. The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that up to 3.4 million more people will struggle to affordfood in the near three to six months and more than 2.8 million people are considered to be food insecure. In areas controlled by non-state armed actors in Kachin and northern Shan, the provision of nutrition activities was limited in scale due to armed conflicts and COVID-19 related travel restrictions.
Health: The lack of referral services has impacted health-related protectionactivities in rural areas since February 1st and the provision of healthservices has been severely disrupted in areas where CDM is most active. Primary healthcare services are provided by the volunteers at IDP camps but secondary and tertiary healthcare services are not available in every IDP camp. COVID- 19 protection services have also deteriorated since then and the civilian government's efforts to control the virus have crumbled in the hand of the military government. Thus, civilians from rural areas have the highest risk to be facing COVID- 19 outbreak but COVID-19 prevention awareness-raising activities continued in camps and displacement sites.
Water, Sanitation & Hygiene: According to Myanmar Humanitarian Update No. 4 (25 February 2021), OCHA's partners reached 30,130 people in over 70 displacement sites infive townships with the life-saving humanitarian response, including theprovision of safe drinking water, improvement of sanitation facilities and distribution of basic hygiene items but civilians from some displacement areas are still facing with water shortages. Partners from Kachin are also providingWASH support through water supply activities and maintenance services. Additionally, partners conducted hygiene promotion and awareness-raising campaigns together with hygiene items distribution.
Uncertain Future of Humanitarianassistance to IDPs
This coup could mean a black future to aid groupsincluding local and international non-governmental humanitarian organizationsand beyond doubt, the coup affects the MOUs done between aid groups and the civilian government since 2015. As the cost of the coup, many partners of the United Nations Office of the Coordination ofHumanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have temporarily stopped since the coup, and twolarge INGOs, theDanish Refugee Council and the International Rescue Committee, also have suspended theirlife-saving services for several reasons such as increasing market price, cash shortages, travel problems and liquidity difficulties.
The Humanitarian Response Plan of OCHA is also underfunded as thecrisis escalates and there is an urgent need to ensure the continuity andfunctionality of services. Socio-economic impacts from the coup could discourage international and local humanitarian organizations but INGOs and NGOs shouldn't suspend the aid instead adapt to the situation. Development actors should start looking for new ways to adapt to the situation as this is the challenge to step up their game and it is crucial not to ignore SDG goals amid the conflicts. As nearly the whole area of the country can be considered to be conflict-affected areas, concerted actions to ensure the continuity of human rights assistance to Myanmar have to be taken without delay.
During this catastrophe, we can see the unity ofMyanmar civilians and it is great that civilians with better conditions arehelping those who are in need by donating to local organizations. As external support for humanity inside is also necessary, the role of INGOs and NGOs is not to be neglected and INGOs and NGOs must show their strong stand for the people of Myanmar. Last but not least, Myanmar civilians are staying strong on their rocky road to democracy with their greatest hope.