Myanmar has an estimated population of 58 million made of 135 different ethnic groups. The country is categorised as one of the world's least-developed states, and it ranks 149 out of 187 countries in the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index ranking.
Access to adequate and nutritionally-balanced food in Myanmar remains a major challenge for the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the population, especially in rural border areas. Twenty-six (26) percent of the population are below the poverty line and close to three million people are considered food poor. The nationwide prevalence of stunting among children under-five is 35 percent, indicative of a high burden public health problem by international benchmarks.
Long-lasting localized conflicts have led to the displacement of populations in eastern and southeastern Myanmar, which already faced high levels of poverty and food insecurity. Inter-communal violence recently broke out also in parts of the country, leading to widespread damage and displacement. In addition, a large segment of the population in Northern Rakhine State continues to suffer from a stateless and impoverished condition. In Shan State, many families are confronted with the challenge of transitioning from opium production to alternative income sources in order to comply with the Government poppy eradication measures (Myanmar is the second producer of opium, after Afghanistan).
The country is prone to recurrent natural disasters as tropical cyclones (Nargis in 2008), floods and drought.
Myanmar is a country in transition, at a turning point of its history and at the center of political and economic interests in the region - and beyond. Despite the number of changes being witnessed lately, tangible progress in the areas of economic and social development and the provision of basic services to the whole population and throughout the country will require time.