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Brussels, 9 February 2012

EU development cooperation with Burma/Myanmar

The European Commission has been providing development assistance to Myanmar (Burma) since 1996, and to the tune of €174 million. Bilateral relations are framed by the EU Council Decision which imposes sanctions on individuals and entities, import restrictions, and restrict the scope of development cooperation to human rights, democracy, governance, conflict prevention, civil society, health and education, poverty alleviation and environmental protection.

126 projects have been signed since 1996. Today, 53 programmes worth €104 million are ongoing, covering livelihoods and food security and health and education. These programmes are delivered via UN organisations and NGOs.

Following the remarkable programme of political reform undertaken by the Government and Parliament in Burma/Myanmar, the EU will help promoting democratic reforms, developing the economy and reducing poverty through increased financial assistance. EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, will announce an additional €150 million support package to provide more assistance to the following sectors in 2012 - 2013: health, education, agriculture and aid to uprooted people.

The EU will also continue to strengthen civil society actors and seek to support finance initiatives in the areas of climate change and forestry. It will also support capacity building for improved planning, environmental governance and statistics. €100 million are expected to be committed in 2012 and €50 million in 2013.

Key intervention sectors


Current situation: The maternal mortality rate is estimated to be 240 per 100,000 live births. The under-five mortality rate stands at 71 per 1,000 live births. Among children under five, the leading causes of death after the neonatal period are pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. Among specific diseases, the leading causes of death and illness in Burma/Myanmar are TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS.

EU intervention: the EU contributes €18 million via the multi-donor Three Diseases Fund (3DF). It was launched by the EU following the withdrawal of the Global Fund for HIV, TB and Malaria from Burma/Myanmar in 2005. With the overall budget of $137 million, 3DF started operations in 2007 for a five-year period.

The Fund contributes to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Burma/Myanmar, and specifically MDG 6, by reducing the number of deaths from diseases like HIV, TB and Malaria. The programme reaches out to those who are most at risk of any of these three diseases, particularly those living in remote and hard-to-reach areas with limited or no access to public health services.

Results: so far, 1.7 million confirmed and probable cases of malaria have been treated, 160,000 new cases of pulmonary TB have been detected, 19,000 people living with HIV have received antiretroviral treatment (ART) and 625,000 people have been reached with prevention programmes.

There are also several bilateral cooperation programmes in health, with a total budget of more than €12 million.

Additional assistance provided through bilateral programmes currently contributes to:

  • increasing awareness, prevention and preparedness for Avian and Human Influenza in 4,000 villages, covering 300,000 households, in which the UNDP community development projects are operating;

  • improving access for 600,000 people to primary health care with a focus on mother and children, by supporting grassroots health facilities and working through Community Health Volunteers;

  • assisting 28,000 people with Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) /HIV & AIDS prevention, care and support.


Current situation: primary school enrolment has expanded significantly over the past two decades, with 97% of children attending school, both girls and boys.

However, the percentage of children actually completing primary education is still not reaching the global objectives.

EU intervention: the EU contributes €14 million to the Multi Donor Education Fund (MDEF). The EU was the main donor of the Fund (2007-2011), which aimed at increasing equitable access and outcome in quality early childhood development and basic education, with extended learning opportunities for all children, especially in disadvantaged and hard to reach communities.

Results: so far 600,000 children attending more than 4,000 primary schools in 25 townships have been targeted with the Child-Friendly School approach, 900,000 children have received essential learning packages to support their schooling, 230,000 children under five in disadvantaged and hard to reach areas have attended Early Childhood Development services, at least 5 million primary school children nationwide have benefitted from the roll out of the Life Skills curriculum and 84,000 out-of-school adolescents have been reached by non-formal education activities.

There are also several bilateral cooperation programmes with a total budget of more than €2 million.

Additional assistance provided through bilateral programmes currently contributes to:

  • 37,000 children benefitted from the restoration of education facilities in Cyclone Nargis-affected areas, providing access to Early Childhood Care and Development and Non-Formal Education;

  • about 60,000 students in 400 monastic schools countrywide currently benefit from improved quality education, and about 1,000 teachers are trained in child -centred teaching and learning approaches.


Current situation: agriculture remains the mainstay of the economy with almost 40% of GDP being derived from agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forestry. 63% of the workers is engaged in the agriculture sector. Despite the significant agricultural potential and the fact that Burma/Myanmar produces enough food to both supply its people and export to external markets, yields are generally low and food and nutrition security at household level varies considerably between and within states/regions, and within villages. According to the recent Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey, the poverty line has fallen from 32% in 2005 to 26% in 2011, while rural poverty represents 87% of total poverty.

EU intervention: the EU has contributed €46 million under the Food Security Thematic Programme (FSTP) since 2007. €32.9 million were committed through the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT), making the EU the largest contributor to the Fund's total budget of $80 million. The overall objective of the Fund is to contribute to the achievement of MDG 1 (the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger) in Burma/Myanmar. LIFT’s goal is to improve the food and livelihood security of poor and vulnerable people in Burma/Myanmar.

The remaining €13 million has supported projects (half of which are still ongoing) focusing on rural development (crop productivity, livestock, producers' organisations, other incomes generating activities, nutrition education, water infrastructure etc.).

Results: so far the Fund has provided assistance to an estimated 860,000 people in Burma/Myanmar. Capital was provided to 9,579 households to start new businesses and 3,449 community groups were trained in management, livelihood and vocational skills.

Examples of EU projects

During his visit, European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, will visit an EU co-funded project (€1.29 million) in Dala and Seikyi Khanaungdho, two vulnerable townships with 176,600 inhabitants. The project was launched in January 2011 and targets the large uprooted population (at least 30% of the total population) of the two townships, very mixed ethnically and religiously, as well as their host communities, especially the most vulnerable ones.

The project aims to help three areas – reproductive, maternal and child health, access to safe water and improving the livelihoods and economic status of uprooted people.

Food security Project in the North Rakhine State

Context: The project was based in the North Rakhine State of Burma/Myanmar, an area inhabited by 850,000 people, from where 200,000 people fled to Bangladesh in the early nineties. The refugees started to come back in 1995. The majority of the population are landless and still rely on daily labour, fishing, or subsistence farming on leased land. Poverty is the major cause of food insecurity and many need regular food assistance to cope with the seasonal hunger gap.

EU contribution: €1.75 million (100% of the total project).

Results: the project ran from 2006 – 2010 and had more than 30,000 direct beneficiaries. 95% of the vegetable growers at least doubled their income and 75% tripled it. 600 unemployed young beneficiaries were trained in mechanics, horticulture, pesticide application and animal health. 520 trainees started their own businesses after the training.

For more information

IP/12/115 – Commissioner Piebalgs to visit Burma/Myanmar to pledge more support for democratic reform

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