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Villagers in Myanmar sit on a blue rug while learning how to use agricultural tools given to them by IRC workers.
New beginning


The International Rescue Committee provides vital support to the people of Myanmar who have endured decades of natural disasters and military rule.

Country facts
  • Population: 53.2 million
  • People displaced by crisis: 1.7 million
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 148 of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in Myanmar: 2008
  • People assisted: 462,000 per year

Myanmar crisis briefing

Myanmar, located in Southeast Asia, has for decades been ruled by a military regime and pummeled by natural disasters. The IRC provides health care, water and sanitation services, and community support to help people rebuild their lives.

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What caused the current crisis in Myanmar?

A half-century of military control, extreme poverty and frequent natural disasters has left Myanmar (also known as Burma) in a state of crisis. The country hosts some of the most isolated and vulnerable populations in the world.

Most recently, Myanmar has struggled to recover from the devastation of Cyclone Komen, which displaced 1.7 million people. Meanwhile, 100,000 Muslims forced to flee deadly persecution escaped by boat, many of whom tragically drowned at sea.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Myanmar?

In 2011, Myanmar began the process of political, social and economic reform. This led to more freedoms, decreased oppression and increased foreign investment. Despite these gains, many people continue to require lifesaving support—especially those living in rural communities.

Healthcare services are alarmingly under-resourced and religious tensions are still common. The United Nations estimates that continued instability has displaced another 375,000 people within Myanmar and pushed thousands more into neighboring Thailand, where more than 100,000 Burmese refugees live in camps along the border. 

How does the IRC help in Myanmar?

Our mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to recover and gain control of their futures.

The IRC began work in Myanmar in 2008, providing humanitarian relief in response to Cyclone Nargis. Since then, the IRC has become a valued partner of both government and local aid organizations. We provide health care, water and sanitation services, career training, and support for community development projects.

As the country struggles to recover from ongoing conflict and natural disasters, we are focusing on some of the most remote areas of the country, including Rakhine, Chin and Shan states. The IRC:

  • trains community health workers and supports mobile clinics to improve access to health care;
  • partners with local communities to increase access to clean drinking water, improve sanitation facilities and prevent the outbreak of disease;
  • promotes economic recovery by teaching farmers modern agricultural techniques and technology;
  • empowers communities to identify their own development needs and design their own recovery projects, such as new schools and health centers;
  • operates women and girls’ centers that provide skills training and support to survivors of violence;
  • aids nearly 140,000 refugees from Myanmar in nine camps along the Thailand border.

What still needs to be done?

The IRC’s work in Myanmar is more crucial than ever as people struggle to rebuild their lives in the wake of natural disaster and internal conflict.

We pledge to put the needs of the most vulnerable—women, children and the elderly—at the forefront of our efforts, and to achieve measurable improvements in decision-making power, safety and health.

We will continue to extend our reach to regions that have received little or no aid, and we will also work toward equal outcomes for women and girls in all of our programs.

IRC teams and partners currently assist 462,000 people in Myanmar with lifesaving support. Over the next several years we will focus on the following areas:


The IRC will use its expertise in social programs to improve people’s ability to make their own health, education and livelihoods choices. We will also collaborate with local governments along the Thailand border to increase access, information and support to refugees.


The IRC will provide support and referral services to victims of violence. We will also create safe spaces where conflicting groups and individuals can talk through their problems.


The IRC will continue to help mobile health teams reach remote areas. We will also work with the government of Myanmar to strengthen the quality of local health care services.

Focusing on maternal health, we will work to ensure that women and adolescent girls are protected from unintended pregnancy and treated for complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

As in all our efforts, the IRC will strive to reach more people more quickly, increase the effectiveness of our work, listen to the concerns of those affected by our work, and hold ourselves accountable for results.

Download the IRC Myanmar strategy action plan to learn more about our program priorities through 2020.

Our impact

In 2015, the IRC and our partner organizations in Myanmar provided:


children and youth with access to educational opportunities.

Children uprooted by violence and natural disaster deserve to have a proper education.

Explore our education work.

people with access to primary and reproductive health care.

In rural Chin state, we’re training midwives to be well equipped to assist women in need of reproductive care.

Learn more about health.

people with access to clean water and sanitation.

We’re working to ensure people in the most remote areas of Myanmar have access to clean water and proper sanitation to curb outbreaks of disease.

Read more about our health work.

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