Myanmar (Burma) | ActionAid UK

Myanmar (Burma)

ActionAid began working in Myanmar, also known as Burma, in 2001. We work with the most marginalised people in nine states, including members of ethnic minorities, displaced peoples, the landless, day labourers and disabled people, most of whom live in remote rural areas.

Since violence erupted in Myamar’s Rakhine State in August 2017, more than 610,000 Rohingya people have fled Myanmar, crossing the border into Bangladesh where they’re living in makeshift camps. 

ActionAid is on the ground in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, with a full-scale humanitarian response that is reaching 50,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar with emergency food, clean drinking water and hygiene kits that include sanitary products, soap and clean underwear. Donate to ActionAid UK’s Rohingya Crisis Appeal here

Why we work in Myanmar

Myanmar is home to 135 ethnic groups. In recent years, the country has experienced rapid change. A liberalisation process, which began in 2010, has seen more than 40 years of military rule give way to democracy.

Since Myanmar opened up to further foreign investment, it has made significant progress in reducing poverty. Yet the gap between rich and poor is increasing and almost a third of the population lives below the poverty line. One child in 10 dies before his or her first birthday.

  • 33
    One in three people live in poverty.1
  • 35
    35% of children under the age of five have stunted growth.2
  • 500
    Violence in Rakhine State led 500,000 people to flee the country.

Opportunities for ordinary women in Myanmar remain limited. Women lack adequate access to education and reproductive health services. They often have little say over key decisions in their lives.

As the country’s military has eased its grip on power, simmering ethnic tensions have boiled over into violence. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority group, have fled violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, arriving as refugees in Bangladesh. During August and September 2017 this crisis escalated, putting a massive strain on refugee camps and settlements.

Myanmar’s poorest people are also particularly vulnerable to climate change and have experienced an increase in floods, droughts, and cyclones. In 2008, Cyclone Nargis killed 84,500 people, mostly in rural areas where 70% of the population lives and poverty is twice as high.

Daw Soe Soe works on the small piece of land she farms with her husband. Their daughter is sponsored by ActionAid.

Daw Soe Soe works on the small piece of land that she farms with her husband. Their daughter is sponsored by ActionAid.

Photo: Greg Funnell/ActionAid

What we do in Myanmar

To tackle violence, we train community paralegals in basic legal skills and provide free legal aid to women who have survived violence, so that perpetrators can be held to account. To change attitudes, we train male community leaders in cultivating zero tolerance policies toward violence among their male friends and colleagues. We also train government staff, including the police force, on the implementation of laws and policies designed to prevent violence against women. 

ActionAid helps women set up businesses through an initiative called the Socio-Economic Development Network (SEDN). This network creates marketing outlets for handicraft products made by local women’s enterprises. We support farmers to set up self-help business groups, that provide access to seedbanks and loans on a revolving basis so they don’t have to rely on moneylenders with high interest rates. And we link farmers and fisher-folk to local Ministry of Agriculture training programmes to help them adapt to Myanmar’s increased flooding, drought and cyclones.

ActionAid’s ‘Fellowship Programme’ supports young people who want to improve their rural communities. We’ve supported 600 young people, or fellows, to develop ‘village plans’, which allow them to record detailed information about issues such as girls’ access to education and women’s rights. ‘Village Plans’ are being used by local governments with endorsement from the highest level, including chief ministers and union ministers.

How we’re changing lives for good in Myanmar

In 2014 alone, ActionAid reached 200,000 people in more than 700 communities across Myanmar, focussing on ending violence against women, helping women set up businesses and supporting young people to become change makers.


Photo: Christopher Davy/ActionAid, ActionAid, ActionAid, Christopher Davy/ActionAid