The United Nations is calling on Myanmar's military authority to allow unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to millions of people suffering from conflict, poverty, acute hunger and ill health.
One year after the military coup toppled the democratically elected government, U.N. officials warn the country is moving toward civil war.
The United Nations reports the growing crisis has plunged an estimated 14.4 million people into destitution. In response, the U.N. has appealed for a record $826 million to provide relief for 6.2 million people.
Jens Laerke, spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, says the economic and political turmoil sparked by last year's coup, combined with the devastating impact of COVID-19, have driven half of Myanmar's population of 25 million into poverty.
"Many can no longer afford to feed their families because of job and income losses and price increases," he said. "Over 13 million people are moderately or severely food insecure, and malnutrition is expected to worsen among children unless we support the parents to provide enough nutritious food for their kids."
The U.N. reports more than 400,000 people have been displaced since the military takeover. It says thousands are living in appalling conditions, while many others have fled to Thailand and India in search of refuge.
Laerke acknowledges the U.N. is asking for a lot of money for Myanmar without any guarantee it will be able to reach those in need, but he says the appeal is based on need, not on the ability to deliver aid.
"It goes without saying that the relationship with the authorities (is) not particularly rosy," he said. "We hear that from everybody. We are particularly trying to deliver aid in urban areas, which is kind of a new caseload in this crisis. The urban population and the urban needs are of particular concern."
The U.N. human rights office has documented 1,500 civilian deaths since last year's coup, saying people were killed during street protests or when security forces raided homes or villages in search of opponents. It reports that approximately 200 people were killed due to torture while in military custody.