Myanmar’s Humanitarian Crisis: difficult access to food and medical supplies

28th April 2022

Escalating conflict has disrupted supply chains and made it difficult for people to travel, tend their crops and livestock, and work. This restricts communities ability to access and buy nutritious food, and is putting children at risk of severe acute malnutrition. The nutrition support has had a visible impact and communities are also facing challenges accessing safe water, hygiene and sanitation.

In Kayin (Karen) State, southeast Myanmar (Burma), renewed conflict between the Myanmar military and ethnic nationality organizations has displaced thousands of people and created a humanitarian crisis against the backdrop of a rising wave of COVID-19. With support from the Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT), Community Partners International (CPI) is helping local partner the Karen Ethnic Health Organizations Consortium (KEHOC) to provide displaced and conflict-affected women, newborns and young children with essential nutrition support, safe water, and hygiene and sanitation.

“We currently cover 166 villages and three displacement camps,” explains KEHOC Project Manager Naw Sah Moo Eh. “Our target group are children under two, pregnant women and mothers. There are many serious armed conflicts in our area at the moment. Many villagers have fled to displacement camps.”

Escalating conflict has disrupted supply chains and made it difficult for people to travel, tend their crops and livestock, and work. This restricts communities ability to access and buy nutritious food, and is putting children at risk of severe acute malnutrition.

“Because of conflict, people can’t move freely, making it difficult to get food and medical supplies,” confirms Naw Sah Eh Moo. “The main need now is food. We are providing cash to pregnant women and lactating mothers with children under two so that they can buy food. We’re also supplying ready-to-use therapeutic food packets to children aged from six months to five years to help prevent and treat malnutrition.”

A mother and newborn in Kayin (Karen) State, Myanmar, receives a cash-for-food payment from a KEHOC representative. (CPI/KEHOC)

The nutrition support has had a visible impact. “When we visited these communities, we understood how much they needed our support,” reveals Naw Sah Eh Moo. “When we distributed cash for food to mothers and pregnant women they were very relieved and immediately went out to find the food that they needed.”

Communities are also facing challenges accessing safe water, hygiene and sanitation.

“Water is scarce here and communities lack knowledge about proper sanitation,” explains Naw Sah Eh Moo. “We are building toilets and wells, and providing water purifiers to the displacement camps. We’re also providing hygiene kits containing soap, detergent and sanitary pads, and emergency kits that include masks and hand sanitizer for COVID-19 prevention and flashlights to help people with no electricity.”

Mothers and young children in Kayin (Karen) State, Myanmar, gather to receive humanitarian assistance. (KEHOC/CPI)

Since December 2021, KEHOC has reached nearly 5,000 pregnant women and mothers with young children with cash for food, more than 3,700 children with therapeutic food support, and has distributed hygiene kits and emergency kits to 356 households. The organization has installed 18 water, sanitation and hygiene facilities including latrines, wells, water filtration systems and water tanks.

With support from LIFT, CPI and KEHOC will continue to provide conflict-affected and displaced communities in Kayin State with lifesaving humanitarian assistance.

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