UN refugee agency redeploys staff to address humanitarian needs in Myanmar

Two men sit under the the remnants of their homes in Sittwe, the provincial capital of Myanmar's western Rakhine State. Photo: IRIN/Khine Thurein

29 June 2012 – The United Nations refugee agency today said that it had begun redeploying staff members to Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, where violence has displaced thousands of people.

Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said more staff members had returned to Rakhine on Wednesday, joining an earlier team that had gone back on 20 June and others who were already there.

“We are also participating in a joint visit by the Government, UN, non-governmental organization, and representatives from donor countries to areas affected by the violence,” Mr. Edwards said during a press briefing in Geneva. “They will spend two or three days in Rakhine state.”

Serious inter-communal disturbances took place in Rakhine state last month, leading the Government to declare a state of emergency there. In addition, the UN also temporarily relocated, on a voluntary basis, some of its staff based in the towns of Maungdaw and Buthidaung, as well as Rakhine state’s capital, Sittwe.

According to the Myanmar authorities, the violence, between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, left 78 people dead, 87 injured, and thousands of homes destroyed. It also displaced more than 52,000 people.

Mr. Edwards noted that UNHCR has begun needs assessments in relief camps and has distributed relief items such as blankets, tarpaulins, kitchen sets and mosquito nets to some 5,000 people in 30 locations. Further supplies for an additional 35,000 people will reach Sittwe early next week, he said.

“We and our partners are concerned about the possibility of disease outbreaks because of poor water supplies and sanitation at a time when it is raining heavily,” Mr. Edwards added.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) said it has distributed food to some 92,000 people who were affected by the violence.

WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told the briefing that the agency had sent 440 tons of food and 1,000 tons of rice to Sittwe for distribution and was increasing its logistical capacities in terms of small trucks and stocking possibilities.


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