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United Nations warns Myanmar stands on humanitarian 'precipice'

UNITED NATIONS: One-third of the population of Myanmar, or more than 18 million people, now require humanitarian aid, the United Nations warned on Monday (Dec 18) seeking a billion dollars in donations next year to combat the need. 

The humanitarian situation in the country has worsened since the coup there nearly three years ago, the global body said. 

“Myanmar stands at the precipice in 2024 with a deepening humanitarian crisis that has spiralled since the military takeover in February 2021 with the civilian population that is now living in fear,” said a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published on Monday. 

The 18.6 million people who are currently in need of humanitarian assistance is 1 million more than a year ago and 19 times as many as in 2020, before the coup. 

“Children are bearing the brunt of the crisis with 6 million children in need as a result of displacement, interrupted health care and education, food insecurity and malnutrition, and protection risks including forced recruitment and mental distress,” warned Marcoluigi Corsi, the UN’s interim humanitarian coordinator for Myanmar.

MASS DISPLACEMENT IN CONFLICT

The report highlighted the particular concern of mass displacement, with nearly 2.6 million people pushed out of their homes as of Dec 11 – an increase of 1.1 million since the same time last year – including more than 660,000 people who have been displaced since late October amid the escalating conflict between the military and ethnic minority fighters in the country’s north. 

Further exacerbating the situation, “conflicts and violence are expected to worsen in 2024”, the report said, while denouncing “systematic military violence against civilians”.

Given the dire circumstances, OCHA called on Monday for US$994 million in donations to help the 5.3 million people that have been identified as priorities for aid in Myanmar in 2024. 

“We cannot afford a repeat of the gross underfunding seen in 2023,” when only 29 per cent of required funding was met, Corsi said, pointing out that an estimated 1.9 million people who had been prioritised for aid in 2023 were not reached. 

“Millions of lives are at stake and we all must do everything we can to prevent Myanmar becoming a forgotten emergency,” he said, even as the majority of UN international aid programmes remain underfunded. 

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