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2015 UNHCR country operations profile - Myanmar

| Overview |

Working environment

UNHCR 2015 Myanmar country operations map

  • Fresh displacement was witnessed in 2014 with continued clashes between the Myanmar national army and non-state groups in Kachin and northern Shan States.

  • UNHCR is part of the inter-agency response to internal displacement in Kachin State and northern Shan State, as well as Rakhine State, addressing the needs of more than 240,000 internally displaced people (IDPs).

  • In Kachin State, the Government limits humanitarian agencies' access to IDP sites and aid organizations must seek permission to access areas not under government control.

  • In Rakhine State, the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance has been severely limited by the political context, while conditions for IDPs deteriorate. More than 800,000 individuals in Rakhine State lack citizenship, in addition to other groups potentially at risk in other parts of Myanmar.

  • UNHCR is assisting 230,000 IDPs living in protracted displacement situations in selected communities in the south-east of Myanmar.

  • In the south-east of the country, UNHCR is also monitoring small-scale refugee returns from temporary camps along the Thai border, where some 120,000 refugees from Myanmar are hosted, and is preparing for larger return movements. With ceasefire negotiations underway in 2014, return prospects may increase, though conditions for return remain challenging.

People of concern

The main groups of people of concern to UNHCR in Myanmar in 2015 include people without citizenship, IDPs, refugees, returnees and host communities.

In 2012, violence in Rakhine State forced around 140,000 people to flee their homes.The majority live in government-designated IDP camps near the state capital, Sittwe, and in surrounding townships.

In Kachin State and northern Shan State, more than 100,000 IDPs are displaced and in need of continued humanitarian assistance. They are living in camps in both government-controlled areas, and those under the control of non-state actors.

UNHCR also assists the more than 810,000 people without citizenship in Myanmar.

In south-eastern Myanmar, UNHCR supports communities hosting the estimated 230,000 IDPs living where the organization is operational.

The Office is also preparing for the potential return of some of the 120,000 refugees from Myanmar currently living in temporary camps in Thailand. It is planning support for around 20,000 potential returnees in 2015, although conditions are not yet sufficient to support any organized voluntary return.

UNHCR 2015 planning figures for Myanmar
Type of population Origin January 2015 December 2015
Total in country Of whom assisted
Total in country Of whom assisted
Total 1,497,050 442,000 1,477,500 412,000
Returnee arrivals during year (ex-refugees) Myanmar 10,050 5,000 40,500 20,000
Internally displaced Myanmar 587,000 312,000 514,000 264,000
People in IDP-like situations Myanmar 35,000 35,000 35,000 35,000
Returnee arrivals during year (ex-IDPs) Myanmar 55,000 30,000 78,000 53,000
Stateless Stateless 810,000 60,000 810,000 40,000

| Response |

Needs and strategies

Significant numbers of IDPs in Kachin and Rakhine States continue to live in camp settings. UNHCR is the sector lead for protection. As part of the inter-agency response, it also leads the shelter, camp coordination and camp management (CCCM), as well as non-food item (NFI) cluster.

In Rakhine State, humanitarian space is severely limited and undertaking basic relief activities has met severe challenges. The situation for most IDPs deteriorated in 2014, particularly health coverage and NFI distributions. The premises and warehouses of the United Nations and most international NGOs were attacked and ransacked in early 2014.

The inter-agency response in Rakhine State has repeatedly emphasized the need for durable solutions for IDPs. At present, there is a continued policy by the Government to physically separate the conflicting communities, which limits reconciliation efforts or space for supporting coexistence.

More than 100,000 IDPs live in Kachin and northern Shan State. Continued clashes between the Myanmar national army and non-state actors in Kachin and northern Shan States in 2014 led to more displacement and a need for an emergency response. The inter-agency response relies on permission from the Myanmar Government to access IDPs in areas under the control of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). As a result, only ad hoc missions are undertaken to these areas, limiting the response.

UNHCR will pursue its protection activities and support shelter, CCCM activities, and NFI needs for both Kachin and Rakhine State in 2015. The extent of support offered will rely on developments in the operational areas, particularly levels of access.

In the south-east of Myanmar, UNHCR continues to perform return monitoring to identify the destination of refugees settling back in Myanmar. The aim is to build a profile of areas where interventions can be planned if the scale of returns increases, enabling the Office to respond once spontaneous returns increase. Planning for return is ongoing, including consultations with Myanmar refugees on the Thai border.

| Implementation |


While UNHCR's main government partner in Myanmar will continue to be the Ministry of Immigration and Population and the Ministry of Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs, UNHCR is also an active member of the Humanitarian Country Team in Myanmar. In Kachin and Rakhine States, UNHCR continues to lead the protection sector and remains the cluster lead agency for shelter, NFI and CCCM. UNHCR also leads the protection sector at national level, which includes UN agencies, international NGOs and several others, including national organizations, and works to raise awareness of protection concerns, enabling an efficient response.

2015 UNHCR partners in Myanmar
Implementing partners
NGOs: Bridge Asia Japan, Community and Family Services International, Danish Refugee Council, Kachin Baptist Convention, Karuna Myanmar Social Services Bhamo, Karuna Myanmar Social Services - Myitkyina, Lutheran World Federation, Malteser Hilfsdienst Germany, Marie Stopes International, Myanmar Red Cross Society, Shalom (Nyein) Foundation, Première Urgence - Aide Médicale Internationale
Operational partners
Government agencies: Ministry of Immigration and Population; Ministry for Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs; Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement
NGOs: Action Against Hunger, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Médecins Sans Frontières - Netherlands and Switzerland, Metta Development Foundation, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, Relief International, Solidarités International, Trócaire, World Vision
Others: ICRC, International Development Law Organization, IOM, Myanmar Relief Foundation, OCHA, PEACE Law Firm, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP, WHO

| Financial information |

The budget for UNHCR's operation in Myanmar has been rising since 2012, when a ceasefire between the Myanmar army and the KIO broke down.

Increased interest among refugees in returning to Myanmar requires budget estimates that cover potential activities, should conditions be deemed conducive. Significant financial support may be needed in 2015 to support shelter repair and maintenance in Rakhine and Kachin States. Given the above, the 2015 budget for Myanmar is set at USD 67.8 million.

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update

UNHCR contact information

The UNHCR Representation in Myanmar
Style of Address The UNHCR Representative in Myanmar
Street Address No 287, Pyay Road, Myaynigone, Sanchaung Township, Yangon, Myanmar
Mailing Address P.O. Box 1485, Yangon, Myanmar
Telephone 95 1 524 022
Facsimile 95 1 524 031
Time Zone GMT + 6.3
Working Hours
Monday:8:30 - 17:00
Tuesday:8:30 - 17:00
Wednesday:8:30 - 17:00
Thursday:8:30 - 17:00
Friday:8:30 - 17:00
Public Holidays 04 January 2016, Independence Day
12 February 2016, Union Day
13 April 2016, Water Festival
14 April 2016, Water Festival
15 April 2016, Water Festival
19 July 2016, Full Moon Day of Waso
14 November 2016, Full moon Day of Thanzaungmone
26 December 2016, Christmas Day




UNHCR contact information

Statistical Snapshot*
* As at June 2015
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained. In the absence of Government figures, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in many industrialized countries based on 10 years of individual asylum-seeker recognition.
  3. Persons whose applications for asylum or refugee status are pending as at 30 June 2015 at any stage in the asylum procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015. Source: country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and assistance. It also includes people in IDP-like situations. This category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are inside their country of nationality or habitual residence and who face protection risks similar to those of IDPs but who, for practical or other reasons, could not be reported as such.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015.
  7. Refers to persons who are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law. This category refers to persons who fall under the agency's statelessness mandate because they are stateless according to this international definition, but data from some countries may also include persons with undetermined nationality.
  8. Refers to individuals who do not necessarily fall directly into any of the other groups but to whom UNHCR may extend its protection and/or assistance services. These activities might be based on humanitarian or other special grounds.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Myanmar [1]
Refugees [2] 0
Asylum Seekers [3] 0
Returned Refugees [4] 1
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5]
More info 368,500
IDP figure in Myanmar includes 35,000 people who are in an IDP-like situation.
Returned IDPs [6] 8,000
Stateless Persons [7]
More info 1,090,000
This figure is an estimate of persons without any citizenship in Rakhine state derived from the 2014 census. It does not include an estimated 175,000 IDPs, persons in an IDP-like situation and IDP returnees who are also of concern under the statelessness mandate because they are already included among the IDP figure.
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 1,466,501
Originating from Myanmar [1]
Refugees [2] 458,381
Asylum Seekers [3] 55,639
Returned Refugees [4] 1
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5]
More info 368,500
The figure of stateless persons refers to persons without citizenship in Rakhine State only and does not include an estimated 170,000 IDPs and persons in an IDP-like situation who are included under the IDP population but who are not considered nationals. The total stateless population in Rakhine State is estimated to be approximately one million.
Returned IDPs [6] 8,000
Various [8] 526
Total Population of Concern 891,047

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Myanmar Cyclone Victims Still Need Aid

With eight relief flights and an earlier truck convoy from nearby Thailand, UNHCR had by June 6, 2008 moved 430 tonnes of shelter and basic household supplies into Myanmar to help as many as 130,000 victims of Cyclone Nargis. The aid includes plastic sheeting, plastic rolls, mosquito nets, blankets and kitchen sets. Once the aid arrives in the country it is quickly distributed.

On the outskirts of the city of Yangon – which was also hit by the cyclone – and in the Irrawady delta, some families have been erecting temporary shelters made out of palm leaf thatching. But they desperately need plastic sheeting to keep out the monsoon rains.

Posted on 12 June 2008

Myanmar Cyclone Victims Still Need Aid

Returnees in Myanmar

During the early 1990s, more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh, citing human rights abuses by Myanmar's military government. In exile, refugees received shelter and assistance in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazaar region of Bangladesh. More than 230,000 of the Rohingya Muslims have returned since 1992, but about 22,000 still live in camps in Bangladesh. To promote stability in returnee communities in Myanmar and to help this group of re-integrate into their country, UNHCR and its partner agencies provide monitors to insure the protection and safety of the returnees as well as vocational training, income generation schemes, adult literacy programs and primary education.

Returnees in Myanmar

Refugees from Myanmar: Ethnic Karens Seek Shelter

Over 2,000 refugees from Myanmar have crossed the border into Thailand in recent months. Most claim to be fleeing renewed conflict and human rights abuses in Kayin state, Myanmar. The mainly ethnic Karen refugees say their houses and villages have been burned and civilians killed. Many were weak upon arrival, suffering from illnesses such as malaria, after a long, dangerous journey to the camps through heavily mined areas. The refugees have been arriving at government-run camps, mainly in the Mae Hong Son area in northern Thailand.

UNHCR is working with the Thai government and non-governmental organisations to ensure the new arrivals are admitted to the camps and provided with adequate shelter and protection. Shelter has been a major issue as the capacity in many refugee camps has been overwhelmed. In a breakthrough in mid-May, Thai authorities agreed to build proper houses for the new arrivals.

There are currently 140,000 refugees from Myanmar living in nine border camps in Thailand, many of them have been there for up to 20 years.

Refugees from Myanmar: Ethnic Karens Seek Shelter

Cyclone Devastation in Myanmar

On 2/3 May, Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar, killing thousands of people and leaving more than 1 million homeless. As a rapid initial response to the crisis, the UNHCR office in Yangon purchased US$50,000 of plastic sheeting and canned food for distribution to cyclone victims.

Since then, the UN refugee agency – in the first overland convoy of aid – trucked in 22 tonnes of tents and plastic sheets from stocks in north-western Thailand. In addition, more than 100 tonnes of plastic tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets and mosquito nets are being airlifted in from UNHCR's regional stockpile in Dubai.

Although the UNHCR is not usually involved in natural disaster relief operations, it has responded to the cyclone crisis because of the scale of the devastation, the urgent needs of the victims, and the proximity of its emergency relief supplies to Myanmar.

Posted on 15 May 2008

Cyclone Devastation in Myanmar

UNHCR Relief Items Pour into Myanmar

With eight relief flights and an earlier truck convoy from nearby Thailand, UNHCR had by June 6, 2008 moved 430 tonnes of shelter and basic household supplies into Myanmar to help as many as 130,000 victims of Cyclone Nargis. The aid includes plastic sheeting, plastic rolls, mosquito nets, blankets and kitchen sets. Once the aid arrives in the country it is quickly distributed.

On the outskirts of the city of Yangon – which was also hit by the cyclone – and in the Irrawady delta, some families have been erecting temporary shelters made out of palm leaf thatching. But they desperately need plastic sheeting to keep out the monsoon rains.

Posted on 12 June 2008

UNHCR Relief Items Pour into Myanmar

Myanmar IDPs pick up the pieces in Rakhine state

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding across Myanmar's Rakhine state, where some 115,000 people are desperately in need of aid after being displaced during two waves of inter-communal violence in June and October 2012. The displaced, most of them ethnic Rohingya, have sought shelter in temporary relief camps and others remain scattered across the state, living under tight security in their destroyed villages. Conditions are harsh: the camps are overcrowded and some lack even the most basic of sanitation facilities while many of the villages are totally destroyed and running low on water. In one village, more than 32 families were living cheek-by-jowl in just two large tents. The children have no access to education and the newborn and elderly are in a very vulnerable position due to a lack of medical facilities. UNHCR is distributing relief supplies and working with the authorities and partners to improve camp conditions, but international assistance is required.

Myanmar IDPs pick up the pieces in Rakhine state

Living Silence: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

"Living Silence" is a photographic exhibition of one of the world's most enduring refugee crises, by award-winning photographer Saiful Huq Omi.

Bangladesh has hosted refugees for over three decades. Today, 28,000 refugees from Myanmar known as the Rohingya - an ethnic, religious and linguistic minority people - are living in the two official refugee camps in the south-east of Bangladesh. Over half of them are children, many of whom have only ever experienced life in the camps. It is estimated that there are a further 200,000 Rohingya living outside the camps, unable to return to Myanmar where they fear persecution and exploitation.

Like refugees around the world, the Rohingya refugees are survivors. They are living in transience, waiting for the day they can go home in safety and in dignity. Until then, like any other people, they aspire to live a life free from violence and exploitation.

Together with other UN agencies and NGOs, UNHCR provides shelter, water, primary education and health care to refugees from Myanmar in the Nayapara and Kutupalong camps. UNHCR is also working with governments around the world to resettle some of the most vulnerable.

Living Silence: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Climate change and displacement

In the past few years, millions of people have been displaced by natural disasters, most of which are considered to be the direct result of climate change. Sudden weather events, such as Myanmar's Cyclone Nargis in 2008, widespread flooding in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camps in 2006 and the drought that hit Ethiopia in the 1980s, can leave huge numbers of people traumatized and without access to shelter, clean water and basic supplies.

The international community has entrusted UNHCR with responsibility for protecting and assisting people who are forcibly displaced and who cannot return safely home. Although the majority of people displaced by climate change will remain within their own borders, where states have clearly defined responsibilities, additional support may be required.

When called upon to intervene, UNHCR can deploy emergency teams and provide concrete support in terms of registration, documentation, family reunification and the provision of shelter, basic hygiene and nutrition.

Among those who are displaced across borders as a result of climate change, some will be refugees while others may not meet the definition. Nevertheless, many may be in need of protection and assistance.

Climate change and displacement

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

In 1991, some 250,000 refugees from Myanmar's Northern Rakhine state fled by boat and on foot to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they were sheltered in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazar district. While the majority of these refugees eventually returned home, some 20,500 people – mostly Rohingya, a Muslim minority ethnic group – remain in two of the original camps.

Conditions in these camps are below standard, with many refugees living in overcrowded shelters in desperate need of repair. Frequent heavy rains inundate the area, further damaging shelters and spreading disease. Harassment and discrimination add to the plight of the Rohingya refugees, the majority of whom say that they do not want to return home until there is peace and democracy in Myanmar.

The UNHCR has expanded its routine protection monitoring in Cox's Bazar to address the problems of sexual and gender-based violence as well as trafficking of women and children. The UN refugee agency continues to work with governments, other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to try and find a durable solution for the Rohingya refugees.

Posted on 27 November 2006

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Desperation on the Andaman Sea

For days, they were an undertow, an unseen tide of people adrift in the Andaman Sea. UNHCR and its partners had warned that thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshis were held captive at sea, then abandoned as their crew fled government crackdowns on smuggling and trafficking networks.

Then a green boat surfaced on TV, packed with emaciated men, crying women and sick children, all dehydrated, hungry and desperate. It gave a face to the problem, then vanished overnight. After five days drifting between the coasts of Thailand and Malaysia, some 400 people on board were finally rescued by Indonesian fishermen in the early hours of May 20.

They are among more than 3,000 lucky ones who have been able to come ashore since May 10 in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, where UNHCR is helping to assess their needs. Thousands more could still be stranded at sea. In a welcome statement on May 20, the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to bring these vulnerable people to shore - a move that will hopefully end the long nightmare at sea.

Desperation on the Andaman Sea

Displaced women sew up a future in Kachin campPlay video

Displaced women sew up a future in Kachin camp

Conflict in Myanmar's Kachin state has displaced tens of thousands. In the town of Laiza, UNHCR is helping women in Hpun Lum Yang camp to learn tailoring skills as part of a pilot project to foster cohesion among IDP women in the camp and help them find solutions for the practical problems they and their community face.

Myanmar: Olympic Spirit AlivePlay video

Myanmar: Olympic Spirit Alive

The International Olympic Committee and Samsung recently presented sports kits to 20 schools in south-east Myanmar. The lucky children were happy to show off their skills.

By Boat to SafetyPlay video

By Boat to Safety

The recent resurgence in inter-communal violence in western Myanmar, forced hundreds of people to sail to safety on their fishing boats.
Aid To Myanmar Cyclone VictimsPlay video

Aid To Myanmar Cyclone Victims

UNHCR has sent in almost 120 tonnes of aid to help more than 10,000 victims in Myanmar of Cyclone Nargis.
Angelina Jolie visits refugees in ThailandPlay video

Angelina Jolie visits refugees in Thailand

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visits Karenni refugees in northern Thailand.