United Nations Delivering for Vulnerable Communities

The UN in Myanmar has come together as one to support COVID-19 preparedness and response. The next in a series of articles highlights UNHCR's contribution.

COVID-19 endangers everyone– including people displaced by conflict, host communities and stateless persons. UNHCR is working to support the Government of Myanmar as well as the World Health Organisation to step up services with a US $9.4 million programme to ensure the inclusion of persons of concern as well as host communities in the national health response.

Supporting the most vulnerable to get through the crisis

Displaced families are among the most marginalized and vulnerable members of our community. They are particularly at risk during this coronavirus outbreak as they often live in close quarters with inter-generational families and may face limited access to water and sanitation systems and health facilities. In response to these challenges, UNHCR has increased prevention and response activities in displacement sites in Kachin, northern Shan and Rakhine states as well as the South East. To ensure that internally displaced people (IDPs) have access to accurate information, UNHCR and partners are running awareness campaigns with key messages on prevention, and scaled up health, water, sanitation and hygiene services in camp settings as well as busy market areas with new sinks, soaps and hand sanitizer in place.

UNHCR has also extended support to State Health Departments and local authorities across the country to equip quarantine facilities. The provision of plastic sheeting for example, provides privacy as well as protection from the monsoon rains, while beds, blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets kitchen sets, buckets, hygiene kits with toothbrush, tooth paste and towels, help to make the temporary stay more comfortable, and safer for everyone. In response to a request in Kachin State, UNHCR also handed over 18 heavy duty washing machines for the disinfection of clothes and linen in quarantine facilities across the State.

UNHCR Myanmar
In April, UNHCR delivered 18 heavy duty washing machines to quarantine facilities in Kachin State, as well as the construction of a laundry room in Myitkyina quarantine site. The remaining washing machines have also reached 10 townships across the state, allowing for the proper disinfection of clothes and linen.

To support the national health response, UNHCR has procured four WHO-designed COVID-19 commodity packages necessary to support an outbreak of 40,000 people with various degree of treatments, including 16 ventilators. The Agency is also contributing 10,000 testing kits to the Ministry of Health and Sports as part of a broader UN-effort, with delivery anticipated in the coming weeks.

Maintaining life-saving humanitarian response is critical

At the same time, UNHCR and partners continue to respond to ongoing humanitarian needs for conflict affected and stateless families. With the monsoon season upon us, the UN through UNHCR is rolling out the shelter rehabilitation and renovation programme to ensure vulnerable households are protected during the wet weather. Continued displacement also warrants UNHCR emergency activities including the distribution of non-food items for those forced to flee their homes. In addition, core UNHCR activities including the protection and the identification of persons with specific needs including elderly alone, female-headed households and persons with serious medical needs continue.

UNHCR efforts are also underway with the Government of Myanmar to create conditions conducive to the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of displaced persons. This includes working with UN partners, including UNDP, in support of recovery, resilience, and development for the benefit of all communities which would allow for IDP families and refugees return home and rebuild their lives. Consultations with communities continue in a socially distanced and protective manner, with work underway to restart the implementation of community initiatives, including the rehabilitation of roads, water ponds and schools, installation of solar streetlights and culverts.

Here to stay and deliver

UNHCR is here to stay and deliver shelter, emergency non-food items and protection support to stateless, internally displaced and other persons of concern across the country in addition to the COVID-19 response. In the face of these extraordinary and challenging times, none of us can be protected against COVID-19 unless everybody is included - and that includes stateless and displaced people.

UNHCR Myanmar
Cecile Fradot, UNHCR Representative a.i. and Srikanth Srinivasamadhavan, Managing Director of Unilever EAC Myanmar Co. Ltd and Vice President of Unilever Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos unite in fight against COVID-19.
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees