07/01/2019, 16.06
MYANMAR
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One in four people in Myanmar live in extreme poverty, on less than US$ 1 a day

Limited resources, poor education and debts are the main causes of poverty in Myanmar, according to the local Caritas director. Still the percentage of the population below the poverty line has dropped from 48.2 per cent in 2005 to 24.8 per cent in 2017. Chin State has the highest rate, at 58 per cent. Poverty in rural area stands at 30.2 per cent but drops to 11.3 per cent in urban areas.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - One in four people in Myanmar still live below the poverty line, this according to the report on Myanmar Living Conditions Survey 2017 released on Thursday by the Ministry of Planning And Finance. The survey was conducted with the financial and technical assistance of the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The report notes that the percentage of the population below the poverty line dropped from 48.2 per cent in 2005 to 24.8 per cent in 2017. In fact, despite the country’s increasing population, the number of poor went from 18.7 million in 2005 to 11.8 million in 2017. Living on K1,500 a day (US$ 1) is deemed below the poverty line in Myanmar.

Based on the survey, Chin State has the highest poverty rate at 58 per cent, while Rakhine State is second at 41.6 per cent. The latter has been the epicentre of the Rohingya humanitarian crisis as well as a conflict between rebels and government forces.

The lowest rate can be found in Thanintharyi, Mandalay and Yangon with 13 per cent. In rural areas, the index is 30.2 per cent, whilst in urban areas it is 11.3 per cent.

Limited resources, poor education and debts are the main causes of poverty in the country, this according to Richard Win Tun Kyi, national director of Caritas Myanmar – known in the country as the Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS).

Speaking to AsiaNews, he said that "Rural communities that do not have assets (such as land, farming equipment, etc.) and are the poorest in the country. They live on a subsistence income, relying on daily wages, and, during the lean period, on loans from big farmers and loan sharks.”

Income support and social protection are just some of KMSS’s areas of intervention. The organisation deals with poverty through short and long term programmes. The former include some microfinancing and group savings initiatives.

For Win Tun Kyi, the goal is to help “poor people improve their basic needs through innovative ways, such as greater food security via buying basic goods together at cheaper prices; motivating people to get out of the debt trap by creasing saving schemes; and by providing a safety net with small interest-free loans when small crises happen.”

In terms of long-term interventions, KMSS director said that the focus is on “education for the future generations, and lobbying the government to obtain basic services such health and education.”

In Myanmar, Catholics are a small minority, numbering around 750,000 or just above 1 per cent of the population. The KMSS can rely on 725 volunteers.

"Reaching out to the poor is difficult,” Win Tun Kyi explained. “Even KMSS struggles to reach them. We need genuine interest in the poor, and this is a challenge even for the Church”.

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