CRS in Myanmar
Myanmar – also known as Burma – remains one of the poorest countries in Asia. More than one-fourth of the country’s people live in poverty. The previous government’s isolationist policies and economic mismanagement have left Myanmar with poor infrastructure, endemic corruption, underdeveloped human resources and inadequate access to capital. Since the transition to a civilian government in 2011, Myanmar has begun an economic overhaul aimed at attracting foreign investors. Myanmar’s abundant natural resources, young labor force, and proximity to Asia’s dynamic economies have attracted investment in the energy sector, garment industry, information technology, and food and beverages.
In Myanmar, Catholics make up about 1% of the mostly Buddhist population. In 2014, the Church celebrated its 500th anniversary and named Archbishop Charles Maung Bo as the first Myanmar bishop ever to be made a Cardinal. Current ongoing projects are in areas of mine-risk education and victim assistance for landmine survivors, agriculture and livelihoods, peacebuilding, and inclusive education for children with disabilities. Peacebuilding between local communities and authorities is incorporated in all CRS Myanmar projects. CRS also works with local Caritas partners in capacity building to incorporate international best practices of community-led project design and implementation.
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CRS' History in Myanmar
CRS Myanmar maintains a small administrative footprint, while leveraging the expertise and reach of local partners and the local Church.
CRS and its partners work to improve food security and to generate income to meet the needs of the poorest families. CRS currently implements two agriculture and livelihoods projects in Chin State and Bago Region. Both projects aim to increase food security by working with local farming communities to improve production and storage practices.
Chin State, in the west of Myanmar, is the country’s poorest state, manifesting itself in high food insecurity and malnutrition. The majority of the households depend on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods, with maize and rice as the most important crops. The maize that is produced in Chin state is not necessarily used as food as much of it is destroyed by weevils and other pests during storage. The maize is either sold soon after production with the money used for the purchase of rice, or has to be thrown away, contributing to a hunger gap of about 3 months.
CRS and its partner KMSS Hakha aim to increase the availability of maize of food insecure households in maize-growing areas. The FRB-funded program will directly train and support 22,400 men and women in the production of good grain and seed, and how to securely store them.
In Bago region, CRS and KMSS Yangon are working to improve food security via improved rice paddy production and storage in 10 villages for approximately 2,700 individuals. The people there are mainly of Kayin ethnicity and until a few years ago, the area experienced conflict between the Kayin National Union (KNU) and the Myanmar Military Government.
In the project area, yields of paddy are significantly lower than what can be expected due to a combination of factors including traditional low yielding varieties, poor seed quality, weather and limited time and labor availability for agricultural operations during the monsoon months. What is harvested and stored is exposed to significant losses due to mold, weevils, rats and birds. The project also assists with training and registering Community Animal Health Workers who provide services to livestock owned at the household level.
Children in Myanmar have limited opportunities to access quality education, and it is particularly challenging for children with disabilities (CWDs). The prevalence of PWDs in Myanmar is high, where 1 in 10 persons in a household have a disability. According to the First Myanmar National Disability Survey, nearly 1 in 2 people with disabilities have never attended school.
To confront these challenges, CRS provides support to its partner KMSS Pathein, Ayeyarwady Region, to provide inclusive education for children with disabilities. CRS and its partners are training 110 teachers on inclusive education practices, providing medical screenings and support to children with disabilities, adapting school infrastructure to the needs of the disabled, and developing savings groups so parents can save income to pay for their child’s education and transportation needs.
Mine Risk Education & Victim Assistance
CRS has been engaged in mine risk education and explosive remnants of war programs in Myanmar since January 2013 and currently implements project activities in 3 states in partnership with the KMSS National Office and 3 diocesan offices. The project works in 41 villages reducing the impact of landmines and building trust between local and national officials and ethnic minority populations by reducing the risk of mine accidents and improving the quality of life of landmine survivors. CRS has directly supported 7,366 individuals in building awareness regarding the dangers of mines and how to avoid them, as well as providing landmine survivors with improved first aid and life support when an accident occurs. CRS and partners also refer survivors and persons with disabilities to available social services for long-term improved quality of life.
Catholic Relief Services has assisted the Myanmar Church’s Justice and Peace Commission (Myanmar Catholic Conference of Bishops) on peacebuilding initiatives. Working at a time when civil society was closed in...