Challenges of relief response in Myanmar

Nov 17, 2021

Every humanitarian situation has unique challenges. When hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans poured through Southern Europe, relief agencies were already stretched by responses in Syria, Nepal and the Central African Republic. Countless families stood shivering for days at border crossings, waiting to be processed by countries which were overwhelmed by the numbers on their doorsteps. OM in Europe played a key role in that disaster, filling the gap in essential services and responding to people’s physical and spiritual needs.

The situation in Myanmar has its own challenges. The global pandemic is drastically hurting people in many countries, with high rates of illness, the closure of formal and informal industries, and rampant unemployment. In Myanmar’s case, the situation is greatly compounded by the military coup. Even in ‘normal’ circumstances, such a coup would have a devastating impact on the local population.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reports that “humanitarian access remains substantially limited due to armed clashes, presence of armed personnel along the main transport routes and bureaucratic constraints.” UNOCHA goes on to note that “checkpoints and insecurity are disrupting and delaying humanitarian programming, while further limiting the types of aid that partners are able to transport.”

Beyond these movement constraints, “relief providers face difficulties accessing remote and conflict-affected areas. Additional new restrictions are being imposed with the spread of COVID-19 cases, with a number of relief providers in several areas temporarily suspending their activities.”

Further challenges abound. A daily limit of currency withdrawals at ATMs hampers the ability to purchase the quantities of goods needed to help affected people. This is compounded by price increases on staple goods.

Despite these challenges, OM MTI has been actively involved in supporting the distribution of essential food items to different parts of Myanmar in 2021. This requires local leadership who are flexible and innovative in their approaches, and who have enough local knowledge to identify and avoid potential trouble spots. Working with local leadership is essential, and in recent years has been acknowledged by the wider humanitarian world as a highly effective way to meet the needs of local populations.

OM MTI continues to work closely with local leaders to ensure that aid is received where it is needed the most. Every sack of rice and tray of eggs delivered represents another family who are able to keep eating despite the compounding effects of Covid-19 and the military coup. Every food delivery speaks of God’s love in the midst of a terrible situation.

 

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