Learn more about specific causes in Myanmar that you can get involved in.
EnvironmentThe issues surrounding climate change and its mitigation were largely absent from legislation during military rule in Myanmar.1 Agricultural and urban infrastructure was developed under loose environmental regulations, putting the current environmental ministry in a difficult position with little authority to change policy. One of the issues stemming from this policy history is a lack of education on the effects of certain industrial practices on the environment.2 The United Nations Development Programme is active within Myanmar to help implement programs for renewable energy and climate change adaptation.3
FamilyThere are no laws in Myanmar that protect women against domestic abuse. The response to complaints generally involves local community action rather than official intervention. Women in Myanmar operate under pressure to remain silent about abuse committed against them. There is a helpline program (Irrawaddy Women’s Network) that works in 30 different villages assisting victims of domestic abuse, but it has only been able to help ten women file complaints.1 The largest challenge is reaching the two-thirds of citizens residing in extremely rural regions with family planning technology and knowledge.2
Human RightsThe situation of human rights is deteriorating quickly in Myanmar. In previous years it looked as though government protections were improving, but in 2016 the government began to resemble apartheid rule. The army acts with impunity and has violated many human rights, specifically against ethnic minorities. There are a wide array of violations of international expectations in prisons, including reports of torture and poor healthcare. Humanitarians are increasingly hindered as they attempt to travel to areas that most need help. Religious tolerance decreased as well.1
EducationThe government only spends 1.3% of GDP on education. Children are forced to pursue courses of study that are determined by test scores rather than by labor demands or what the student would prefer. Children are only required to attend school for five years1, and the average child stays in school for eight years. Only 76% of the population is literate.2 The chronic underfunding of schools stems from the former debilitating military rule of the country, under which education was severely devalued in society.3
Poverty26% of the population lives below the poverty line. Vice President U Henry Van Thio cited job shortages, climate change, and both financial and food insecurity as the main reasons for poverty in rural areas. The government has begun to invest in infrastructure in rural areas in an attempt to alleviate these concerns.1 Work and employment opportunities are not equally available throughout the country and there is a low return on the amount of labor investment due to the low skill level of the average laborer.2
ReligionThe majority religion in Myanmar is Buddhism, with 88% of the population professing to follow Buddhism. The remaining population follows Christianity (6%), Islam (4%), and other indigenous religions such as Animism.1 Religious intolerance increased significantly in 2017. The government became involved in anti-religious media and closed down religious schools after being pressured by the public.2
Clean WaterMyanmar has a surplus of water resources, but not everyone has access. 80% of the population has clean water and 78% have improved sanitation facilities.1 The main problem Myanmar faces is sediment buildup in the water because of industrial development near storage basins. Mining and logging in the area near the storage dams has also caused the water to become polluted.2
Economy25% of the economy is based in agriculture, and the agricultural sector is responsible for the employment of 70% of the labor force. Myanmar’s main trade partners are China, Singapore, and Thailand. The CIA cites smuggling as one of the greatest obstacles that prevents accurate analysis of the economic output of the country. Imports consist of fabrics, petroleum products and fertilizers, while natural gas, wood products, and food products are exported. 4% of the population is unemployed, and 26% live below the poverty line.1 Corruption is pervasive and institutionalized and has continually undermined growth and economic freedom in the country..2
GovernmentThe Republic of the Union of Myanmar is a parliamentary republic. The president is both chief of state and head of government. There are 11 main political parties but multiple smaller parties. The country gained independence in 1948 from the United Kingdom. The US government has not acknowledged the country’s name change, and still refers to it as Burma.1 Despite the parliamentary form of government that Myanmar has established, there is still rampant political violence, discrimination, and corruption within the political sphere as a lasting legacy of oppressive military rule. Human trafficking, illegal logging, and the drug trade constitute most of the tolerated and illicit economic activities in Myanmar.2 The country ranks 130th out of 180 in Transparency International’s corruption index, and the public scores Read More the government 30 out of 100.3 Show Less
HealthMyanmar’s population is rapidly aging due to a dropping birth rate. The leading causes of death in the country are tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. Myanmar has the highest tuberculosis rate in Asia.1 The average life expectancy in the country is 68 years, and 2.3% of GDP is spent on healthcare. The infant mortality rate is 36 deaths per 1,000 live births and the maternal mortality rate is 178 deaths per 100,000 live births. 19% of children under the age of five are underweight, while 6% of adults are obese.2
ChildrenDespite the fact that 25% of citizens in Myanmar are under the age of 15, the overall proportion of younger people in the country has been steadily decreasing since the conclusion of the 20th century.1 19% of children under the age of five are malnourished2, and the under-five mortality rate is 50%.3 Because of the financial burden of receiving an education, nearly one-third of all children are engaged in child labor. The problem has become an epidemic exacerbated by parental illness, teacher abandonment, and insufficient school resources.4
AnimalsMyanmar’s ecosystem is a part of the Indo-Malayan ecoregion. The forests of Myanmar are home to many species such as the barking deer, sambar deer, jungle cat, Asiatic jackal, and leopard. They are threatened by the increased conversion of forest land into agricultural property. There are very few protected areas, and poaching and illegal wildlife trade are common practice.1
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