Mercy Corps began working in Myanmar in 2008 to help communities recover from the devastating damage of Cyclone Nargis. Since then, we have extended our work to respond to communities’ needs and support the country in its path to economic growth, resilience, peace, and good governance. In 2017 alone, we were able to reach over 1 million people through our work.
Myanmar is located between China and India in southeast Asia. The country has a very young population of nearly 54 million people.
Despite economic growth and increased democratization, Myanmar, one of Asia’s poorest countries, continues to face political, security and development challenges. Conflicts have plagued the country since independence in 1948, and are still ongoing, despite economic reform. Myanmar also remains one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to natural hazards and climate change impacts.
Though Myanmar has experienced 7.5 percent economic growth between 2012 and 2016, the population at large has not benefited much due to deep-rooted inequalities. The rapid development in the past years has attracted young people to the cities, although their lack of transferable skills makes it challenging for them to find work. The potential of young people remains largely untapped.
Agriculture remains the largest contributor to GDP, and more than 65 percent of the population is finding employment in the sector. However, agriculture production remains low, major inefficiencies exist in agricultural market systems, and the sector overall remains vulnerable to climate change impacts, particularly in the coastal areas. Though Myanmar’s natural resources (hydropower, petroleum, fisheries, forestry and mining) are vast, they remain largely unexploited, and at times a source of conflict. An overwhelming majority of people in Myanmar are living without electricity.
Despite political reform, government systems and capacity remains low. Most community members have no or little chance to participate in democratic processes — this is especially true for women and youth. At the same time, the government’s formal peace talks are not making much progress and conflict between the Army and Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) is continuing, resulting in more internal displacements.
While social media represents a new and extremely popular platform to engage the public, freedom of expression has decreased over the past few years. Many worry about increased polarization and influence of extremist Buddhist nationalist groups as well.
The troubling events in 2017 in the poorest state of the country, Rakhine, have led to more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing the country to neighboring Bangladesh. Prospects for returns are low while at the same time the remaining Rohingyas and other ethnic Muslim minorities continue to suffer from discriminatory laws and regulations.
The people of Myanmar are committed to working toward a stronger tomorrow. By providing assistance after natural disasters and helping communities and leaders bring about sustained peace, stability and economic growth that include all people, we are bringing a brighter, more stable future for everyone in Myanmar.
The Myanmar field team is made up of approximately 500 staff members and is led by the Country Director Leo Roozendaal. Our team operates from the capital of Yangon. In addition, we have 11 sub-offices in the country.
Our vision is that communities in the country are able to determine their future through responsive governance, inclusive and equitable access to economic opportunity, climate change resilience, and equal rights leading to peace and prosperity.
We are helping farmers increase their productivity and incomes and improving the way agricultural markets work. We’re helping communities adapt to climate change while increasing access to life-enhancing household energy products. And, we’re improving the ability of local governments and civil society groups to resolve conflicts and the capacity of the public in decision-making to get access to effective and responsive services.
Since 2008, our work has reached millions of people, including over 1 million people in 2017 alone. Here are a few recent results of our work in Myanmar:
- In 2017, we increased incomes by close to 15% for more than 1,900 farmers and 600 entrepreneurs.
- In 2017, more than 5,000 households adopted fuel-efficient cookstoves that reduce firewood consumption by 50% and harmful emissions by 80%.
- In 2017, we trained 80 representatives from the government and ethnic armed organizations on accountability and community engagement.
- In 2017, Mercy Corps trained 259 leaders on dispute resolution. As a result, 73% of the disputes subsequently managed by these leaders were successfully resolved.
How to help
Myanmar: Preparing emergency relief after severe flooding
Monsoon rains have triggered severe flooding across Myanmar, affecting 250,000 people. Our team on the ground is preparing to distribute emergency relief to families in need.
Myanmar: Innovative conservation efforts honored
Mercy Corps' innovative efforts to save valuable mangroves in Myanmar has won a big accolade.
Myanmar: A father plants seeds for a new future
A wide grin spreads across U Myo Zaw’s long, lively face as he eyes his new watering cans and vegetable seeds. The relatively simple supplies will help him cultivate his own small plot of land, a tremendous symbol of personal progress for him.
Myanmar: Making our land green again
I’m 19 years old and live in Bokone village, in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwaddy Delta. Together with eight other people from my village, I am part of a community organisation called Sein Pyae Aye Yar. In English, it means Full Green Ayeyarwaddy Delta.
Myanmar: Cookstoves to the rescue
Myat Soe and his family lost their house, fishing business and small grocery in the 2008 cyclone that devastated Myanmar's Ayeyarwady Delta. Afterwards, they moved in with his father and struggled just to make ends meet.
Myanmar: Changing times
Change was a theme that kept cropping up during my visit to Myanmar earlier this year. The changes the country has seen since my grandfather lived there in the 1940s. The changes Cyclone Nargis brought in 2008 to the thousands of families it affected.
Myanmar: Daw Than Than Shwe, rice farmer
Fifty-five-year-old Daw Than Than Shwe, a mother of two, grows 27 acres of rice in Kyu Taw village in Myanmar's Irawaddy Delta.
Myanmar: Improving harvests in a cyclone's wake
Tun Myint, 61, has been farming since he was a teenager. Smiling broadly under a bamboo hat, he greeted us and was eager to take us to see his 20 acres of rice fields.
Myanmar: Buffalo dominoes
During the eight-hour drive from Yangon to Myanmar’s Delta region, I’d seen lots of beautiful water buffalo hanging out in mud by the side of the dirt roads, flicking their ears lazily. Farmers across the delta rely on them to help plough their land, so they’re a common sight.
Myanmar: Small animals bring big dreams
Cyclone Nargis, which devastated large swaths of Myanmar (known also as Burma) in 2008, took everything from residents like 59-year-old Daw Hla Kyi — including her livestock.