Just weeks after Myanmar finalized its Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) 2021, the country’s armed forces took power from the government on February 1, 2021. This plunged Myanmar into a crisis that continues to spread and deepen pre-existing vulnerabilities and a growing number of people in situations of humanitarian need. Access to and delivery of humanitarian aid are still severely limited due to challenges in renewing Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) for implementing partners and obtaining travel permits, as well as massive disruptions to the banking system.
Concerns about malnutrition in Myanmar are growing: The original HRP 2021 plus the June supplement (issued due to the political situation) identified just under 460,000 people in dire need of nutrition with a financial need of USD 25.7 million The crisis expanded, with more organizations on board and a greater number of geographic areas covered. At the end of March 2021, the GNC Technical Support Team (TST) of qualified nutrition experts for countries with deteriorating humanitarian situations received a request to support nutrition coordination in Myanmar. The GNC’s response was to virtually dispatch Faith Nzioka, the TST’s Food Cluster coordinator, to assist Myanmar in strengthening its existing food coordination mechanism in the face of the evolving humanitarian crisis.
“Nutrition partners are facing an increasingly complex business environment as they navigate a challenging engagement paradigm: working tirelessly to reach the affected population while trying not to contact the de facto authorities in a way that which legitimizes them, ”confirms Faith.
The top priorities for the 12-week deployment (April 19 – July 16, 2021) were developing the country’s Emergency Preparedness Plan (ERP) and strengthening partner capacities for an immediate response to the current political crisis. Myanmar’s food sector was the first country to use the GNC’s ERP planning guidelines and tools and to complete the process. The main focus was on mobilizing assistance to meet the additional needs of those affected by humanitarian crises due to various threats in different parts of the country (notably COVID-19, armed conflict and floods) that were not included in the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) ) 2021.
“One of the biggest challenges in Myanmar is the lack of up-to-date data on acute and chronic malnutrition (the latest SMART survey is from 2015),” said Faith. “In addition, the technical human resources and financial capacities are insufficient to cover the national food aid. The nutrition sector has 27 implementing partners, but not all of them have the ability to provide the minimal technical components of a comprehensive response, in particular Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (IMAM) and Emergency Infant and Young Child Nutrition (IYCF-E). ”
With the support of the GNC, the sector has now developed tools for assessing partner capacities. The results of the partners’ capacity assessment carried out in July 2021 should feed into the work of the food sector in the coming days in order to build up capacities to meet the existing and identified additional needs.
Another important achievement of the TST mission was to support the establishment of new Technical Working Groups (TWGs) for IYCF, IMAM and Assessment and Information Management. The TWGs were set up to support and enable partners to conduct, expand and conduct life-saving nutrition activities in the developing humanitarian environment in Myanmar.
At the cross-sectoral level, contributions to the submission of an argument for the formal activation of four clusters including nutrition (the other three are education, food security and child protection), which will be approved from August 21, 2021 according to the procedures agreed by the IASC, will ensure accountability and ensure that emergency aid reaches the people affected quickly and effectively.
“This was my second remote assignment as a nutrition cluster coordinator and it was a great opportunity to improve my online moderation skills,” said Faith.
“Although I was working from home prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was a whole new ball game and building excellent relationships in a remote setting with sector / cluster partners can be challenging. The feeling of disconnection is sometimes overwhelming, but the responsibility to provide lifesaving services to the most vulnerable, especially children, has been the driving force behind the challenges that come with working remotely, “she said.
“Myanmar is in a different time zone and I often had to work at unusual times. The use of overlapping times in scheduling sector meetings and flexible working hours were critical to responding to urgent concerns. Working with online documents was a great way to work with partners to ensure everyone had the opportunity to contribute. Regular personal check-ins with TWG co-chairs, partners and CLA to track the progress of work plans / action items have also proven to be very useful. “