Conflicts & War

Half of Myanmar faces poverty by 2022: UN

Bangkok, Apr 30. (EFE).- The double impact of the pandemic and the political crisis unleashed in Myanmar by the coup could lead up to 25 million people, or half the population, to poverty in 2022, the United Nations said Friday.

The report, entitled “Covid-19, coup and poverty: combined negative effects and its impact on human development in Myanmar,” said poverty data in the country could fall to 2005 figures, after registering a decade of economic gains as a result of the democratic transition.

“In 12 years, from 2005 to 2017, Myanmar managed to reduce the number of people living in poverty by almost half. However, the challenges of the last 12 months have put all these hard-to-reach development gains at risk,” said Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Program.

The impact of the pandemic had already wreaked havoc on the weak Myanmar economy, where by the end of 2020 83 percent of households had registered an average 50 percent drop in income, according to the report.

Added to the health crisis is the military coup on Feb. 1 and the violent repression by security forces against demonstrations in rejection of the military that could cause another sharp increase in the poverty rate, the organization said.

The coup has been met by a civil disobedience movement that has paralyzed part of the Myanmar economy and administration.

“Without functioning democratic institutions, Myanmar faces a tragic and avoidable setback to levels of poverty never seen in a generation,” Steiner said.

According to forecasts, in 2021 the number of people below the poverty line could reach up to 12 million, a quarter of the population, and if the instability continues, it could increase to 25 million by next year.

Women and children will suffer the brunt of the crisis and the poverty rate will triple in cities, according to the study.

“We are witnessing an aggravated crisis of unprecedented strength and complexity,” said Kanni Wignaraja, the organization’s regional director for Asia and the Pacific, who added that problems should be immediately tackled to avoid a “lasting interruption” of the development projection in Myanmar.

Since the coup, Myanmar security forces have violently suppressed protests, killing at least 759 civilians, according to a tally by the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners.

They have also arrested more than 3,400 people, including deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, while another 1,276 are wanted for opposing the military junta headed by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.

The current situation of the pandemic is unknown due to the practical paralysis of tests to detect the virus — in part due to a strike of health personnel who oppose working for the military junta — and the vaccination campaign.

The Myanmar Army justifies the coup on alleged electoral fraud in November’s elections, in which Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory, with and which international observers considered free and fair. EFE


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