(CNN)Almost half of Myanmar’s population could be forced into poverty by the end of the year as the country teeters on the brink of economic collapse caused by the double shock of a bloody military coup and the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new United Nations report.
Rising food costs, significant losses of income and wages, the crumbling of basic services such as banking and health care, and an inadequate social safety net is likely to push millions of already vulnerable people below the poverty line of $1.10 a day — with women and children among the hardest hit.Analysis from the UN Development Program (UNDP), published Thursday, warned that if the security and economic situation does not stabilize soon, up to 25 million people — 48% of Myanmar’s population — could be living in poverty by 2022. That level of impoverishment has not been seen in Myanmar since 2005, when the country was an isolated, pariah nation ruled by a previous military regime, it said. UNDP administrator Achim Steiner said it is clear “we are contending with a tragedy unfolding.”Read More”We have fractured supply chains, (disrupted) movement of people and movement of goods and services, the banking system essentially suspended, remittances not being able to reach people, social safety payments that would have been available to poorer households not being paid out. These are just some of the immediate impacts,” Steiner said. “The protracted political crisis will obviously worsen this.”People queue as they wait to use the ATM in Yangon on April 7, 2021, amid strained banking operations due to the military coup. Myanmar had made solid progress in reducing poverty, particularly since the start of a democratic transition from military rule in 2011 that prompted economic and political reforms.Over the past 15 years, the country effectively halved its poverty rate from 48.2% in 2005 to 24.8% in 2017, according to the report. It was still considered one of the poorest countries in Asia, however, with an estimated third of the population subsisting on such a low or precarious income it was one economic shock away from being thrown back into poverty. For many, that shock came in the form of the global coronavirus pandemic. Lockdowns and containment measures disrupted supply chains, so businesses — especially in retail, manufacturing and exports, as well as smaller businesses, market sellers, hairdressers and tailors — suffered. By December last year, more than 420,000 migrant workers had returned home.By the end of the year, 83% of households in Myanmar reported their incomes had been slashed by about half due to the pandemic, the report found. The second shock came in the morning of February 1, when armed forces commander in chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing seized power, overthrowing the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party and installing a military junta. Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters make the three-finger salute of resistance during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar, on Tuesday, April 27.Hide Caption 1 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice officers clear a road after demonstrators spread placards in Yangon on Saturday, April 24.Hide Caption 2 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters run from security forces during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon on April 12.Hide Caption 3 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarBuses from the Yangon Bus Service are seen burnt on April 12.Hide Caption 4 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice talk as they arrive at the site of a demonstration in Yangon on April 12.Hide Caption 5 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAnti-coup protesters walk through Yangon’s Hlaing township on April 9.Hide Caption 6 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAn anti-coup protester raises a decorated Easter egg along with the three-fingered salute of resistance during a demonstration in Yangon on April 4.Hide Caption 7 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters hold homemade pipe air guns during a demonstration in Yangon on April 3.Hide Caption 8 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters hold improvised weapons in Yangon on April 3.Hide Caption 9 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarResidents of the Tamwe area of Yangon participate in a candlelight vigil on April 3.Hide Caption 10 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople take part in a “flower strike” in Yangon on April 2.Hide Caption 11 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters wearing face paint stand near a burning barricade during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon on March 30.Hide Caption 12 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSoldiers walk toward anti-coup protesters during a demonstration in Yangon on March 30.Hide Caption 13 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters run to avoid the military in Yangon on March 30.Hide Caption 14 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA man rides his bike as smoke billows from burning barricades in Yangon on March 30.Hide Caption 15 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters throw stones and use slingshots as security forces approached in Yangon on March 28.Hide Caption 16 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSmoke rises after anti-coup protesters burned tires in Yangon on March 27.Hide Caption 17 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters make incendiary devices during an anti-coup rally in Yangon.Hide Caption 18 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSmoke rises over Yangon’s Thaketa Township on March 27.Hide Caption 19 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMourners attend the funeral of Tin Hla, a 43-year-old who was reportedly shot dead by security forces during a protest.Hide Caption 20 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople cry in Yangon after a relative was shot during a crackdown on anti-coup protesters.Hide Caption 21 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters occupy a street during a rally in Yangon on March 27.Hide Caption 22 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters gesture during a march in Yangon on March 26.Hide Caption 23 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarThein Zaw, a journalist with the Associated Press, waves after being released from a prison in Yangon on March 24. He had been detained while covering an anti-coup protest in February.Hide Caption 24 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMen pray during the funeral of Khin Myo Chit, a 7-year-old girl who was shot in her home by Myanmar’s security forces on March 23. The girl was killed during a military raid, according to the Reuters news agency and the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.Hide Caption 25 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA Buddhist monk uses binoculars as he squats behind a road barricade with others in Mandalay, Myanmar, on March 22.Hide Caption 26 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarThe mother of Aung Kaung Htet wails during the teenage boy’s funeral on March 21. Aung, 15, was killed when military junta forces opened fire on anti-coup protesters in Yangon.Hide Caption 27 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarUnidentified people cross the Tiau River at the India-Myanmar border on March 20. Some people from Myanmar have sought refuge in India since the protests began.Hide Caption 28 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAn anti-coup protester jumps over a makeshift barricade in Yangon on March 19.Hide Caption 29 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters take positions on Yangon’s Bayint Naung Bridge on March 17. The bridge was blocked with an improvised barricade to prevent security forces from crossing.Hide Caption 30 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMedical students hold up the three-finger salute at the Yangon funeral of Khant Nyar Hein on March 16. The first-year medical student was fatally shot during the crackdown.Hide Caption 31 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters test Molotov cocktails in Yangon on March 16.Hide Caption 32 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters stand near burning tires in Yangon on March 16.Hide Caption 33 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAnti-coup protesters pray in Yangon on March 14.Hide Caption 34 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarEmergency workers transport the body of Shel Ye Win, who was shot by security forces in Mandalay.Hide Caption 35 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSmoke billows from the industrial zone of the Hlaing Tharyar township in Yangon on March 14. The Chinese Embassy in Myanmar said several Chinese-funded factories were set ablaze during protests. Demonstrators have accused Beijing of supporting the coup and junta.Hide Caption 36 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA member of Myanmar’s police is seen firing a weapon toward protesters in Yangon on March 13.Hide Caption 37 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople lay flowers and light candles beside bloodied pavement where protester Chit Min Thu was killed in Yangon.Hide Caption 38 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMilitary trucks are seen near a burning barricade in Yangon that was erected by protesters and then set on fire by soldiers on March 10.Hide Caption 39 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester holds a homemade shield during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon on March 9.Hide Caption 40 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester discharges a fire extinguisher to counter the impact of tear gas that was fired by police in Yangon on March 8.Hide Caption 41 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters string up longyi, traditional clothing worn in Myanmar, during a demonstration in Yangon on March 7.Hide Caption 42 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarThe wife of Phoe Chit, a protester who died during a demonstration, cries over her husband’s coffin during his funeral in Yangon on March 5.Hide Caption 43 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters step on portraits of Myanmar’s armed forces chief, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, during a demonstration in Yangon on March 5.Hide Caption 44 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople cry in Yangon on March 4, near a spot where a family member was killed while protesting.Hide Caption 45 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters lie on the ground after police opened fire to disperse an anti-coup demonstration in Mandalay on March 3.Hide Caption 46 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSchoolteachers wear traditional hats while participating in an anti-coup demonstration in Mandalay on March 3.Hide Caption 47 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA soldier stands next to a detained man during a demonstration in Mandalay on March 3.Hide Caption 48 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAnti-coup protesters run in Yangon on March 3. One of them discharged a fire extinguisher to counter the impact of tear gas fired by police.Hide Caption 49 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAn anti-coup protester writes vital emergency information of another protester on his arm in Yangon.Hide Caption 50 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice run toward protesters to disperse a demonstration in Yangon on March 3.Hide Caption 51 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA citizen of Myanmar living in India burns a poster of Myanmar’s military chief during a protest in New Delhi on March 3.Hide Caption 52 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMedics help supply oxygen to a protester who was exposed to tear gas in Yangon on March 3.Hide Caption 53 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters flee after tear gas was fired during a demonstration in Yangon on March 1.Hide Caption 54 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters smoke behind shields during a demonstration in Yangon on March 1.Hide Caption 55 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters in Yangon run away from tear gas on March 1.Hide Caption 56 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople in Yangon take part in a ceremony on February 28 to remember those who have been killed during demonstrations.Hide Caption 57 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSoldiers patrol during a protest in Yangon on February 28.Hide Caption 58 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters take cover as they clash with police in Yangon on February 28.Hide Caption 59 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters erect barricades during a demonstration in Yangon on February 28.Hide Caption 60 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice charge at anti-coup protesters in Yangon on February 27.Hide Caption 61 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAn injured protester receives medical attention in Mandalay after police and military forces cracked down on protests on February 26.Hide Caption 62 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarFactory workers hold placards and shout slogans as they hold an anti-coup protest in Yangon on February 25.Hide Caption 63 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAnti-coup protesters shout slogans in Yangon on February 25.Hide Caption 64 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA police officer films protesters near the Indonesian Embassy in Yangon on February 24.Hide Caption 65 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarThida Hnin cries during the funeral of her husband, Thet Naing Win, in Mandalay on February 23. He and another protester were fatally shot by security forces during an anti-coup protest.Hide Caption 66 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice stand guard near the US Embassy in Yangon as protesters take part in an anti-coup demonstration on February 22.Hide Caption 67 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters hold signs featuring civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration in Yangon on February 22. Hide Caption 68 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters gather for a demonstration on February 22.Hide Caption 69 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA man is carried after police dispersed protesters in Mandalay on February 20. Hide Caption 70 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA police truck uses a water cannon to disperse protesters in Mandalay on February 20.Hide Caption 71 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA police officer aims a gun toward protesters during a demonstration in Mandalay on February 20.Hide Caption 72 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester holds a Suu Kyi poster as he sits in front of police in Yangon on February 19.Hide Caption 73 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters flash the three-fingered salute during a rally in downtown Yangon on February 19.Hide Caption 74 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarFlower tributes and sympathy messages are left in Yangon for Mya Thweh Thweh Khine. The 20-year-old was shot in the head at a protest in Naypyidaw, and she died on February 19.Hide Caption 75 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters block a major road during a demonstration in Yangon on February 17.Hide Caption 76 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarDemonstrators block a Yangon bridge with their cars on February 17.Hide Caption 77 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarBuddhist monks march during an anti-coup protest in Yangon on February 16.Hide Caption 78 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA Suu Kyi banner is displayed during demonstrations in Yangon on February 15.Hide Caption 79 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSoldiers carry barricades in Yangon on February 15.Hide Caption 80 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarElected members of Parliament wave to protesters in Yangon as police surround the headquarters of Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, on February 15.Hide Caption 81 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMedics clear the way as an injured protester is carried away for treatment in Mandalay, Myanmar, on February 15.Hide Caption 82 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople gather around an armored vehicle in Yangon on February 14.Hide Caption 83 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarYoung people in Yangon take part in an anti-coup hip-hop performance on February 14.Hide Caption 84 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters demonstrate in Yangon on February 14.Hide Caption 85 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA child runs alongside an armored vehicle in Yangon on February 14.Hide Caption 86 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters march through the city of Shwebo on February 13.Hide Caption 87 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMembers of the Myanmar Photographers Association hold up their cameras as they call for Suu Kyi’s release on February 13.Hide Caption 88 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice detain a protester during a demonstration in Mawlamyine on February 12.Hide Caption 89 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarFarmers ride a tractor with a Suu Kyi poster during a demonstration in Thongwa on February 12.Hide Caption 90 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester dressed as Lady Justice makes a three-finger salute as she takes part in a demonstration in Yangon on February 11.Hide Caption 91 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters demonstrate in Bagan, a UNESCO World Heritage site, on February 11.Hide Caption 92 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarGen. Min Aung Hlaing, the country’s military leader, makes a televised statement on February 11. He announced that more than 23,000 prisoners were set to be granted amnesty and released that day. It was unclear what offenses the prisoners were convicted of.Hide Caption 93 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarBodybuilders take part in a protest in Yangon on February 11.Hide Caption 94 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople hold up letters that spell “get out dictators” during a demonstration at Inle Lake on February 11.Hide Caption 95 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester carries a child during a march in Yangon on February 10.Hide Caption 96 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarWomen in wedding gowns holds up anti-coup placards in Yangon on February 10.Hide Caption 97 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA police officer aims a gun during clashes with protesters in the capital of Naypyidaw on February 9.Hide Caption 98 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester pleads for police to refrain from using tear gas against demonstrators in Yangon on February 9.Hide Caption 99 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice fire water cannons at protesters in Naypyidaw on February 9.Hide Caption 100 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters gather in Yangon on February 8.Hide Caption 101 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters flash three-fingered salutes as they face rows of riot police in Naypyidaw on February 8.Hide Caption 102 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarHospital workers show three-finger salutes during a demonstration in Yangon on February 7.Hide Caption 103 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA rally takes place in Yangon on February 7.Hide Caption 104 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters shout slogans in Yangon on February 7.Hide Caption 105 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters give roses to riot police in Yangon on February 6.Hide Caption 106 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarYangon residents bang objects to show support for Suu Kyi and her party on February 5. Hide Caption 107 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSoldiers block a road near Myanmar’s Parliament on February 2, a day after the coup.Hide Caption 108 of 108The following months have seen ongoing protests against his rule and the rise of a Civil Disobedience Movement in which thousands of blue- and white-collar workers including doctors, teachers, civil servants and factory workers have gone on strike with the aim of disrupting the economy and unseating the general.Security forces have brutally suppressed the protests with deadly and systematic crackdowns in which police and soldiers have shot dead people in the streets and arbitrarily detained perceived opponents. More than 750 people have been killed by security forces since the coup, and more than 4,500 arrested, according to advocacy group Assistance Association of Political Prisoners. The compounding economic crises of the pandemic and military takeover risk completely wiping out the progress Myanmar has made in reducing poverty, the report said — and the number of people in poverty in the country is likely to double by next year.The impact of the pandemic alone would have raised Myanmar’s poverty level from 24.8% to 36.1%, the UNDP estimated. If the massive economic and social disruption of the coup continues, that increases further to 48.2%. “By then, the shock from the crisis will have resulted in significant losses of wages and income, particularly from small businesses, and a drop in access to food, basic services and social protection,” the report said. People walk through a market strung up with red balloons in opposition to the military coup on February 5, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar. Urban poverty is expected to triple as the towns and cities have been hardest hit by Covid-19 and remain the focus of the most severe military crackdowns. According to the study, women and children will bear the heaviest brunt. Myanmar already has high child poverty rates and the combined crises are “putting an entire generation in peril,” the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said. Rising poverty means children are less likely to stay in school and the loss of key services in education and health care, for example, will lead to “profound physical, psychological, educational and economic impacts.”Women-led households are more vulnerable, the report added, as women are more likely to be employed in sectors affected by the coronavirus, such as the garment industry. And women disproportionally bear the burden of household chores associated with Covid-19, such as caring for the sick or home-schooling children, which forces many to drop out of the labor market, the report said. The two crises are not independent of one another. The overthrow of the civilian government has already amplified the impacts of the coronavirus — Covid-19 testing has collapsed since the coup, doctors say. Meanwhile, the takeover has “derailed” any hope for a post-pandemic recovery, the report said. The deteriorating security conditions have seen a further breakdown of supply chains already disrupted by Covid. Key ports are paralyzed as customs agents, dockworkers, lorry drivers and rail workers halt work.Some shipping firms have temporarily stopped services to the country, the report said. About 80% of Myanmar’s trade is seaborne, and the UNDP estimated trade in ports dropped by up to 64% in the two months after the coup. About 70% of Myanmar’s population are employed inthe agricultural sector, according to the World Bank. Similar disruptions to transport and the movement of labor and goods, as well as pressure on the country’s currency, the kyat, has also hit Myanmar’s agriculture industry, which 70% of the population depend on for their livelihoods.”Across Myanmar society this is a major setback, not only in development but also in terms of inequality and vulnerability,” Steiner said. “People will struggle to survive.”A humanitarian crisis is unfolding as a result. The UN World Food Program last week warned “hunger and desperation” are rising in Myanmar and predicted that up to 3.4 million people will be suffering across the country in the next six months.”Overall, Myanmar is on the brink of economic collapse and risks becoming Asia’s next failed state,” the UNDP report said. To reach its conclusions, the UNDP used a range of sources, including published data from the World Bank, the Brookings Institution, reports from other UN agencies, media reports and household surveys from Myanmar. Because real-time data is difficult to obtain, the UNDP said if the multiple crises of Covid-19, human rights, democratization and security extend even further, the estimates may be worse than predicted — especially for vulnerable groups such as ethnic minorities and internally displaced people. “Much will depend on what’s happening in Myanmar over the next two months,” Steiner said.
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