Top global development NGOs in Myanmar: A primer

The Shwedagon in Yangon, Myanmar, is one of the most famous pagodas in the world. Devex found that most NGOs in the country are based in Yangon, the region receiving the lion’s share of donor aid commitments to Myanmar. Photo by: Andrés García / CC BY-NC

Myanmar is increasingly becoming the world’s donor darling, with foreign aid donors and their implementing partners rushing into the country to deliver development assistance.

International news is awash with pledges from donors keen to support Myanmar’s nascent reforms and ease its transition to democracy. The outpouring of aid to the Southeast Asian nation reached $4.5 billion in 2013 — a whopping 788 percent increase from the $504 million released to the country in 2012.

Today, there are approximately 20 international donors — multilateral and bilateral — funding development projects in Myanmar. As for their partners? The Local Resource Center, Myanmar’s coordinating body for more than 600 civil society organizations, listed 59 international nongovernmental organizations working in the country.

The past few years have seen international NGOs become increasingly active in Myanmar, going beyond emergency relief and humanitarian response to pursue longer-term development in a variety of sectors, including education, environment, health, livelihoods and civil society capacity building.

Devex looked into the main implementing partners of Myanmar’s largest foreign donors to help identify the country’s leading international humanitarian and development NGOs. We found that most of these NGOs, unsurprisingly, are based in Yangon, the region receiving the lion’s share of donor aid commitments to Myanmar.

More importantly, all of these NGOs are predominantly staffed by nationals. The Myanmar Information Management Unit, which provides information management services to strengthen aid coordination, also publishes vacancies for international NGOs at work in the country. The bulk of these job ads, however, are for Myanmar nationals.

Here’s a rundown of some of the leading international humanitarian and development NGOs at work in Myanmar, based on staff size. To find the latest vacancies, search the Devex website, which hosts the largest jobs board in international development.

Pact
Jobs

Founded: 1971
Started in the country: 1997
Headquarters: United States
Myanmar office: Yangon
Staff: 3,100
Main sources of funding: U.S. Agency for International Development, 3MDG, UNAIDS, Chevron, The Coca-Cola Foundation, Ooredoo and ABB          

Pact is the largest global NGO at work in Myanmar today, with a total of 3,100 staff. Operating in the country since 1997, Pact is widely recognized as one of the first global NGOs to provide microfinance loans in Myanmar. In addition, Pact’s integrated development work in the Southeast Asian nation include increasing access to quality health services; promoting improved water, sanitation, and hygiene conditions; strengthening community governance; and facilitating community-led natural resource management. Pact is active in 2,636 villages across 30 townships, including Kayah State, and Magway, Mandalay, Sagaing and Yangon regions.

Médecins Sans Frontières

Founded: 1971
Started in the country:
1992
Headquarters: Switzerland
Myanmar office: Yangon
Staff: 1,300
Main sources of funding: The Global Fund, ECHO and other EU institutions, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Agency, private and government funds

International medical organization Médecins Sans Frontières delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics and natural disasters. MSF is the largest HIV and AIDS provider in Myanmar, and offers basic health and reproductive care, tuberculosis and malaria treatments, and emergency referrals. Working in country since 1992, MSF has medical activities in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states, and in the Tanintharyi and Yangon regions. MSF resumed its work in Rakhine last December 2014, nine months after the government suspended the international NGO’s operations, which officials alleged were biased in favor of the state’s Muslim Rohingya minority.

Population Services International
Jobs

Founded: 1970
Started in the country: 1995
Headquarters: United States
Myanmar office: Yangon
Staff: 1,280
Main sources of funding: USAID, U.K. Department for International Development, The Global Fund, United Nations Population Fund, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, DANIDA

One of the largest global NGOs at work in Myanmar today, Population Services International has been operating in the country for 20 years. To help reduce Myanmar’s disease burden, PSI’s efforts largely focus on addressing HIV and AIDS, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea, and improving reproductive and maternal health. PSI delivers quality health products and services nationwide through more than 8,000 retail outlets, 1,500 private doctors, 2,000 community health workers, and 17 drop-in centers for groups most at risk of HIV — such as female sex workers and men who have sex with men. PSI has eight field offices and operates in nearly all of Myanmar’s 331 townships.

World Vision
Jobs

Founded: 1950
Started in the country: 1991
Headquarters: United States
Myanmar office: Yangon
Staff: 950
Main sources of funding: Children’s sponsorships, government funds

World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide. One of the largest global NGOs at work in Myanmar, World Vision has been operating in the country since 1991. Through 2016, World Vision’s development efforts will largely focus on education, health, economic development, vulnerable children, and humanitarian and emergency affairs. The global Christian NGO is implementing 129 projects across 11 of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions.

Marie Stopes International
Jobs

Founded: 1976
Started in the country:
1998
Headquarters:
United Kingdom
Myanmar office: Yangon
Staff: 600
Main sources of funding: Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, DfID, USAID, United Nations, Netherlands

Marie Stopes International is one of Myanmar’s leading health service delivery organizations, providing integrated sexual and reproductive health care and family planning services since 1998. Across the country, the U.K.-based organization operates 44 health centers, including sexual and reproductive health centers, adolescent SRH centers and sexually transmitted infection centers. MSI also conducts extensive outreach, with 55 teams bringing quality family planning services to clients in remote areas of Myanmar. MSI’s work takes place in 10 of the country’s 14 states and regions. MSI conducts health activities in the Chin, Kayin and Mon states, and in the Ayeyarwady, Bago, Magway, Mandalay, Sagaing, Tanintharyi and Yangon regions.

Save the Children
Jobs

Founded: 1919
Started in the country:
1995
Headquarters:
United Kingdom
Myanmar office: Yangon
Staff: 500
Main sources of funding: USAID, U.K. DfID, European Union, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Australian DFAT, SIDA, Save the Children members               

Save the Children is the leading independent organization advocating for children’s rights and the improvement of children’s lives in nearly 120 countries worldwide. One of the main development NGOs operating in Myanmar, Save the Children has a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Health since 2001. The international NGO has largely directed its efforts toward high-impact initiatives in education, health and economic opportunities. Save the Children’s development programming in Myanmar has heavily concentrated on the Ayeyarwady, Magway, Mandalay and Yangon regions, and the Mon and Kayin states.

London-based health charity Merlin, which sends medical experts to the toughest places, was absorbed by Save the Children in 2013. Merlin has been delivering health care and water and sanitation programs in the country, and is working closely with the health ministry on a maternal and child health care program.

Action Contre Le Faim

Founded: 1979
Started in the country:
1994
Headquarters:
France
Myanmar office: Yangon
Staff: 450
Main sources of funding: Danish International Development Agency, U.K. DfID,  ECHO, EuropeAid, individual donations

ACF International is one of the main development organizations in the fight against hunger worldwide. At work in Myanmar since 1994, the French NGO’s development programming prioritizes nutrition, food security and livelihoods, and water, sanitation and hygiene. Until 2008, ACF’s development portfolio was entirely concentrated in the Rakhine state. Today, however, ACF also has operations in Chin and Kayah states, and the Sittwe region.

Malteser International

Founded: 1953
Started in the country:
2001
Headquarters:
Germany
Myanmar office: Yangon
Staff: 350
Main sources of funding:
 Asian Development Bank, ECHO, EuropeAid, BMZ, GIZ

The worldwide relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Malteser International has been working in Myanmar since 2001. Malteser’s development efforts combine short-term relief measures with sustainable approaches in the following priority areas: relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation; health and nutrition; HIV and AIDS; malaria; tuberculosis; WASH; livelihood and social programs; and disaster risk reduction. Malteser mainly operates in the Rakhine and Kayin states, and the Wa division.

CARE International
Jobs

Founded: 1945
Started in the country:
1995
Headquarters:
Switzerland
Myanmar office: Yangon
Staff: 255
Main sources of funding: Australian DFAT, USAID, ECHO, United Nations

One of the world’s leading humanitarian agencies, CARE International has been delivering broad-spectrum emergency relief and long-term development projects in Myanmar since 1995. CARE’s development efforts have mostly focused on public health and hygiene, HIV prevention and care, food and livelihood security, disaster risk reduction, climate change, and gender. CARE has offices in 10 out of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions.

Solidarités International
Jobs

Founded: 1980
Started in the country:
2008
Headquarters:
 France
Myanmar office: Yangon
Staff: 220
Main sources of funding: DANIDA, U.K. DfID,  ECHO, UNICEF

Solidarités International seeks to assist victims of conflict and natural disasters by meeting their vital needs — drinking water, food and shelter. The French humanitarian agency is among the global relief organizations that responded immediately to the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008. Since then, Solidarités International’s work in the country has focused on three areas: improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene; strengthening food security; and building resilience in households most susceptible to natural disasters. Solidarités International’s programs are largely implemented in the Chin, Kachin and Rakhine states, as well as in the Dry Zone.

International Committee of the Red Cross
Jobs

Founded: 1863
Started in the country:
1986
Headquarters:
Switzerland
Myanmar office: Yangon
Staff: 195
Main sources of funding: Government contributions, ECHO, national societies, private sources

The International Committee of the Red Cross has been present in Myanmar since 1986. Much of its work in the country involves visiting detainees, improving prison conditions, organizing relief operations and reuniting separated families. Since 2013, however, the ICRC has gradually expanded its activities to include improving access to health care and clean water, and restoring livelihoods in communities affected by the intercommunal violence in Rakhine state and the armed conflict in the northeast of the country. The ICRC works closely with the Myanmar Red Cross in the areas of organizational development, disaster risk reduction and response, and restoring family links.

International Rescue Committee
Jobs

Founded: 1980
Started in the country:
2008
Headquarters: France
Myanmar office: Yangon
Staff: 175
Main sources of funding: Netherlands Refugee Foundation, NoVo Foundation, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, European Union, SIDA

On the ground in more than 40 countries worldwide, the International Rescue Committee provides emergency relief, relocates refugees and rebuilds lives in the wake of disasters. The IRC is among the global relief organizations that immediately helped with recovery efforts in the Ayeyarwady Delta region, one of the areas hit hardest by Cyclone Nargis in 2008. Since then, the IRC has expanded its work in the country to include health, WASH, livelihoods and social development programs. IRC operates in some of Myanmar’s most remote areas, including Rakhine, Chin and Kayah states.

Check our complete list of top global development organizations in major hubs and sectors, including in Haiti, South Africa, microfinance and global health.

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About the author

  • Christine Dugay

    Christine is a former senior analyst under the Surveys and Advisory Services team of Devex. A skilled researcher, she contributes to and/or leads custom research projects and surveys commissioned by leading companies and development institutions. Christine has a professional certificate in political economy and a master’s degree in Japanese studies, and is a fellow of the Japan Foundation.