Crisis Severity The severity score from 1 to 5 is based on 31 indicators aggregated into 3 pillars (impact, conditions, and complexity)2.60 Very lowVery high 5
Impact This measures the impact of the crisis itself, in terms of the scope of its geographical, and human effects.2.40 Very lowVery high 5
Humanitarian Conditions This measures the conditions and status of the people affected, including info about the distribution of severity.2.10 Very lowVery high 5
Complexity This measures the complexity of the crisis, in terms of factors that affect its mitigation or resolution.3.50 Very lowVery high 5
Access Constraints This measures the level of humanitarian access constraints.4.0No constraintsExtreme constraints
The political and security situation in Myanmar’s northern Kachin state and eastern Shan state is complex.
In Kachin, a 17-year ceasefire broke down in 2011, reigniting a decades-long conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw). While there has been limited active conflict and few armed clashes in Kachin since August 2018, the effects of seven years of conflict have resulted humanitarian needs, with limited humanitarian access in affected areas. In northern Shan state, intense fighting has occurred since January 2018. There are an estimated 7 ethnic armed organisations (EAOs), 20 militia groups, and 7 Border Guard Forces (BGFs) actively engaged in an armed independence movement against the Myanmar government.?
Several years of conflict in Kachin has resulted in widespread food insecurity, disruption of government services, economic stagnation, and protracted displacement. Armed clashes, human rights violations, and landmine contamination pose a significant protection risk, especially in northern Shan. Access restrictions for humanitarian organisations and active conflict have eroded the coping capacity of communities in Kachin and Shan, two of the most impoverished states in Myanmar and extremely vulnerable to shocks.?
Around 107,000 people are internally displaced across both states. In Kachin, some 97,000 people have been living in IDP camps since 2011. In northern Shan, displacement is often short-term, with 50,000 displaced temporarily since January 2018, though another 9,000 have lived in displacement since 2011. At least 37% of IDPs live in areas that are non-government controlled or contested.?
Fighting on 24 November between the Ta-ang National Liberation Army and government forces displaced more than 1,000 people from Mogok township in Mandalay region. They are staying in Mogok town in monasteries, public halls and churches. Needs are unclear.?
Insecurity and government restrictions constrain access for humanitarian organisations in Kachin and Shan states.
Since 2016, access to non-government-controlled areas has been severely restricted to foreign NGOs and UN agencies. The vast majority of requests to access these areas, which host an estimated 37% of IDPs, have been denied by the Myanmar government. While access for national organisations is not as restricted, in recent years, the process of travel authorisation is increasingly challenging, and subject to delays in approval. Travel is often approved for government-controlled areas, but is frequently limited to the main towns, leaving people in remote areas unable to access humanitarian assistance.
Landmine contamination and unexploded remnants of war are a problem after decades of conflict. Movement is restricted due to the threat of injury by these devices as well as threat of extortion, forced labour, and arbitrary detention by the Tatmadaw and non-state armed groups. These restrict the ability for civilians to go to school, tend to their farms, and access other basic services and livelihood opportunities. This is further aggravated by displacement, particularly for those confined to camps since 2011, where access to basic services is extremely restricted.
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A general election is set to take place in Myanmar on 8 November, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and despite continued fighting between several ethnic armed groups (EAOs), Tatmadaw government forces, and armed militias in Rakhine, Kachin, Chin, and Shan States. This has resulted in continued internal displacement, difficulty in accessing certain areas – particularly Rakhine State – and increased humanitarian needs across the four states. The peace process, which began in 2016, and subsequent ceasefire agreements have lost momentum as state and non-state actors continue to use violence instead of a viable political solution.?
Violence between Tatmadaw government forces, the Arakan Army (AA), and other armed groups has intensified since early 2019, and in March 2020 the government declared the AA a terrorist organisation, reducing the likelihood of a compromise in the near future. Armed conflict has disrupted the electoral cycle, and certain areas are considered highly insecure and inaccessible by the Union Electoral Commission (UEC). On 17 and 27 October, the UEC deemed 56 townships insecure and partially or totally cancelled elections in Kachin, Karen, Mon, Rakhine, Chin and Shan States and in Bago Division. In 2015, general elections were also cancelled in at least 500 villages across Rakhine, Shan, Chin, Kachin, Karen, and Mon States and the Bago Region, so the scale of the 2020 cancellations is particularly significant.?
Trust in the central government is already low, because of their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the setup of the 2008 Constitution – which guarantees the military 25% of parliamentary seats. Cancelled elections and a lack of transparency by the UEC – considered an independent body – has fuelled anger, particularly among ethnic groups. Fighting is therefore likely to escalate as ethnic-armed groups, particularly in Rakhine, Chin, Shan and Kachin, attempt to represent these ethnic groups and use these grievances to extend their political and military control.?
Rakhine State – particularly the centre and north – will continue to face the brunt of the fighting. The state has a population of over three million, and more than 200,000 people are displaced –126,000 of whom have been living in camp settings since 2012. The needs of people will become more severe as access will probably worsen. Rathedaung Township in Rakhine is likely to continue being on the front line of the conflict, which has repercussions on humanitarian access to IDP camps, including Zaydi Pyin camp, where there are existing food and shelter shortages. Food shortages are also an issue in other townships including Sittwe and Mrauk U Townships and Paletwa (Chin State), and are likely to worsen if the Tatmadaw uses a “four-cut” strategy to starve insurgents of food, funds, intelligence, and recruits. This will probably also increase the severity of people in need as they are indirectly affected by these cuts.?
In northern Shan, clashes between the Tatmadaw and EAOs will likely cause more displacement. While this may be temporary, there are already over 9,000 people currently displaced across the state who will probably be affected, increasing the need for fast response mechanisms. There are also major protection concerns as ethnic armed groups forcibly recruit children and young men in vulnerable situations. Major longer-term impacts on livelihood activities are also expected.?
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Protection: Landmines and shelling near villages is a severe protection concern. Additionally, protracted displacement in poorly built and crowded settlements increases the risk of negative coping strategies, such as child marriage, risky migration routes, and recruitment into armed groups.?
Education: The education system in Shan is extremely weak due to the conflict: approximately 37% of Myanmar’s illiterate population live in Shan state. Schools in northern Shan are damaged by shelling or used as bases by non-state armed groups and the Tatmadaw.?
Food and Livelihoods: Conflict and movement restrictions have weakened access to food supplies and agricultural production across Kachin and Shan. Farmers are unable to access their fields and civilians fear going to market because of threat of extortion, forced conscription, and arbitrary detention by both the Tatmadaw and non-state armed groups. Climate-related shocks and economic stagnation have also undermined food security. ?