Myanmar is one of the poorest nations in the world, suffering from decades of stagnation, mismanagement and isolation.
Since 2011, with elections to a civilian government, there has been movement to engage with foreign governments, liberalize the economy and release political prisoners. While these actions are encouraging, Myanmar continues to lag behind all of its Southeast Asian counterparts and is ranked among the poorest countries in the world. (UN Human Development Reports)
Sanctions and the political isolation of Myanmar have resulted in very little international aid and development for the country, about $4 per person per year, which puts it among the lowest three countries in the world.
Chris Kaye of the World Food Programme says abject poverty is a fact of life for millions across the country. There is, he says, “a complete lack of access to basic social services whether health facilities or water sanitation. We’re talking about rural communities in areas that are extremely remote. Roads are extremely poor and travel conditions are extremely hazardous. The life that people lead in some of these communities is just extraordinary.”
Across the country, 33% of children are malnourished, 132,000 children under five die every year because of avoidable diseases, and 50% drop out of school after 5 years.
This calls for our involvement.
The time is ripe for change in Myanmar. The new government has empowered its citizens with freedom of speech, greater legal rights and an open press. They are actively working on improving the overall economy, major infrastructure, the education system and environmental regulations.
Shanta’s efforts to provide rural villagers, who make up more than 60% of the population, with the means to sustainably improve their own lives will now insure that the momentum of change taking place in urban areas will include those most marginalized. (Statistics from U.S. Department of State, 2005)
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