Mon 25 Aug 2014
Filed under: Aid,Ethnic Issues,Human Rights,Inside Burma,News
Two years after inter-communal violence first broke out in Rakhine State more than 310,000 people are still in need of humanitarian assistance there, says the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Pierre Péron, public information and advocacy officer at UNOCHA, said those in need included both Muslim and ethnic Rakhine residents.
The number of international humanitarian staff in Rakhine State decreased sharply after attacks on UN and NGO facilities in March following accusations that they favoured Muslims.
Most of the 300-plus staff from NGOs and INGOs who were temporarily relocated following the attacks have returned to Sittwe.
But Médecins Sans Frontières-Holland, which previously had more than 500 staff in Rakhine, has not been able to resume its activities since they were suspended by the government in February, despite being invited to do so last month.
The Rakhine State government announced in July that MSF and Malteser could resume operations in Rakhine, asking them to cooperate with the Ministry of Health in development projects, humanitarian assistance, healthcare and education.
Welcoming the government’s invitation, Marcel Langenbach, director of operations for MSF in Amsterdam, said, “We hope MSF can restart treating patients as soon as possible.”
Some Rakhine community groups have stated their disapproval of MSF’s return and it remains to be seen what the timeline and modalities for resuming operations will be.
U Than Tun, a member of the Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) in Sittwe, said they had evidence of MSF partiality, adding, “We would not oppose MSF if they only provided healthcare.”
U Hla Thein, who chairs the Rakhine State government information sub-committee, said that discussions on the timeline and scope of MSF’s resumption of work were ongoing. “The [Rakhine State] prime minister is still trying to engage with the Rakhine communities,” he said.
Rainy season has also intensified health problems. The UN has reported increased risk of water-borne and vector-borne diseases, including malaria and dengue fever. It also reports that heavy rains and flooding in some areas have restricted access for health teams to some isolated communities.