UN experts report growing humanitarian crisis due to ongoing fighting in Myanmar News
MgHla, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
UN experts report growing humanitarian crisis due to ongoing fighting in Myanmar

Two senior UN officials told the UN Security Council on Thursday, during the council’s first meeting about Myanmar since the military seized power from the democratically elected government, that the ongoing fighting in Myanmar since the military takeover in 2021 has deprived local communities of basic needs and access to essential services, which has resulted in devastating impacts on human rights and fundamental freedoms.

According to Lise Doughten, Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 2.8 million people in Myanmar are now displaced. OCHA estimates that 157,000 people have fled their homes since the ceasefire failed, and the total current displacement in Rakhine is well over 300,000.

The escalating violence has generated huge impacts on basic human rights. Currently, nearly 12.9 million people, roughly a quarter of the population, are facing food insecurity in Myanmar, and the ability to access essential goods and services and to cope is stretched to its limit due to the depletion of basic medicines and the turmoil in health systems. Education has also been interrupted by the military attacks, leading to around one-third of all school-aged children being out of the classroom. Doughten told the council members that people “are living in daily fear for their lives,” especially since a national law on mandatory conscription became effective earlier this year.

According to OCHA’s estimation, around 18.6 million people across Myanmar will need assistance this year, a nearly 20-fold increase since February 2021. Doughten called for increased funding to support OCHA’s operations, safe and unimpeded access to people in need and safe conditions for aid workers.

In the first quarter of 2024, the conflict intensified, particularly in Rakhine, Kachin, Sagaing and the Southeast of Myanmar. A report released in January alleged that ethnic and religious minorities in the majority Buddhist country are being targeted by the military. In March, a UN official expressed concerns for the Rohingya community as the junta’s attacks have largely impacted Myanmar’s minority Rohingya Muslim community. “Addressing the root causes of the Rohingya crisis will be essential to establish a sustainable pathway out of the current crisis. The failure to do so and continued impunity will only keep fuelling Myanmar’s vicious cycle of violence,” UN Assistant Secretary-General Khalid Khiari claimed during Thursday’s meeting.

Khiari also pointed out the alarming spillover effects brought by the conflict in key border areas, which has weakened transnational security and caused a breakdown in the rule of law, allowing illicit economies to thrive. Myanmar is now the center of methamphetamine and opium production alongside a rapid expansion of global cyber scams, particularly in border areas. “With scarce livelihood opportunities, criminal networks continue to prey on the increasingly vulnerable population…What began as a regional crime threat in Southeast Asia is now a rampant human trafficking and illicit trade crisis with global implications,” he said.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Indonesia in January to safeguard the well-being of Rohingya refugees who have recently arrived in the country. Likewise, last month, the UN urged world leaders to address the ongoing crisis in Myanmar. Khiari stressed the need for greater international unity and support and said the UN will continue to work in complement with the regional bloc, ASEAN, and actively engage with all stakeholders.