Myanmar is the world's second-largest opium poppy grower. In 2011, it was estimated that 43,600 hectares were under opium poppy cultivation, a significant increase of 14 % compared to 2010. Around 256,000 households were involved in opium poppy cultivation in 2011, a 14 % increase. The Government of Myanmar has declared to make the country opium free by 2014.
The Government's ban on opium has had devastating effects on some ethnic minorities and has exacerbated poverty and food insecurity. Accompanied by frequent shortages of rice, these losses of income in areas where illicit crops have been eradicated have led to an increase in human trafficking, drug abuse, environmental destruction, as well as to an indiscriminate use of natural resources and trafficking in fauna and flora. In this connection, UNODC has led initiatives to provide poor farmers with food security and alternative livelihoods.
UNODC's Wa Project in the Mong Pawk District under the Kokang and Wa Initiative (KOWI) facilitates the engagement of new partner organizations into the region. KOWI partners include Government departments, United Nations entities and national and international organizations. Notably, Aide Medical International and Malteser International have supported health activities while the World Food Programme has provided emergency food relief. The Government of Myanmar, UNODC and other United Nations entities have agreed on a framework for the transition from emergency relief to sustainable development in the Wa region covering the 2008-2011 period.