25 million in Myanmar could live in poverty next year: UN report
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25 million in Myanmar could live in poverty next year: UN report

25 million persons in Myanmar, half of the country’s population, could be living in poverty next year following the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and the military coup d’état, according to a new report from the UN Friday.

The report, entitled “COVID-19, Coup d’Etat and Poverty: Compounding Negative Shocks and Their Impact on Human Development in Myanmar,” found that the improvements Myanmar had made in reducing poverty in the 12 years between 2005 and 2017 are at risk of being eroded by the recent challenges plaguing the country. During those 12 years, Myanmar halved its poverty statistics. Despite this improvement, the report found that a third of the Myanmar population was vulnerable, considered “near poor” in 2017, and likely to be significantly affected by unexpected events.

“Given a weak social protection system, and heavy reliance on precarious household earnings, a significant part of the population remained susceptible to sliding below the poverty line in the event of an exogenous shock,” the report noted.

These exogenous shocks were realized with COVID-19 and the military coup. Largely owing to restrictions imposed in light of COVID-19, 83 percent of Myanmar households said they had experienced reduced income of late. Non-farm household businesses were most affected. The farming season was largely completed when COVID-19 broke out in the country.

Poverty rates were found to have increased by between six and 11 percent following the breakout of COVID-19 last year. The military coup which began in February of this year was found to have exacerbated the impact COVID-19 had already made.

The report also found that households headed by women were most likely to have a negative impact from COVID-19 and the military coup. It called this the “feminization of poverty.” It found the factors triggering this effect were the “types and sectors of female employment in Myanmar” and the “disproportionate burden of unpaid domestic work imposed on women, which in many instances has forced them to leave their jobs.”

“Without functioning democratic institutions, Myanmar faces a tragic and avoidable backslide towards levels of poverty not seen in a generation,” said the Administrator of the UN Development Program, Achim Steiner.

Work is underway to end the military junta. A parallel national unity government formed earlier this year. It is composed of the members of the democratically-elected government that was overthrown by the military and is actively seeking recognition of its legitimacy.