Myanmar: senior UN official urges greater access to people in need of humanitarian aid

A mother and her children stand in their small hut in a camp for displaced people in Rakhine State. Photo: OCHA/Michelle Delaney

13 June 2014 – The United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator today stressed the need for improved access to people in need of humanitarian assistance in Myanmar, as she wrapped up a visit to the states of Rakhine and Kachin.

“Despite substantial progress in Myanmar’s reform agenda over the past years, humanitarian conditions have deteriorated in some areas where people are in greatest need, but where access continues to pose a challenge,” said Kyung-wha Kang, who is also Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

In a news release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Ms. Kang said she witnessed the serious challenges that humanitarian workers face in delivering aid to the estimated 421,000 people in urgent need of life-saving assistance in the South-east Asian nation.

In Rakhine, she travelled to Sittwe and Pauktaw to visit camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities affected by inter-communal violence.

She met with local authorities, community leaders, and humanitarian workers to evaluate progress in resuming and scaling up the humanitarian response following the attacks in March on UN and non-governmental organization (NGO) premises in Sittwe. The current capacity of the humanitarian community in Rakhine is still less than 60 per cent of previous levels, she noted.

“The safety and security of our staff, both national and international, must be guaranteed in order for the UN and NGOs to continue to support the Myanmar Government in responding to the vast humanitarian and development needs of all the people in Rakhine state,” she stated.

Despite considerable humanitarian efforts, many people in isolated villages and remote IDP camps continue to live in dire conditions, coupled with severe restrictions on their freedom of movement.

Ms. Kang described as “appalling” the situation she witnessed in Nget Chaung IDP camp, where access to basic services such as health, education, water and sanitation was “wholly inadequate.”

She also visited IDP camps in Kachin state, where communities recently marked the third anniversary of the conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar Army, which has displaced more than 100,000 people.

About half of these IDPs, including women and children, are hosted in camps in areas beyond Government control, where access by international organizations is limited to irregular cross-line humanitarian missions.

“Local NGOs have been, and will continue to be, central to the humanitarian response in Kachin, but more regular, predictable, and sustained access by international organizations is needed to reach the required levels of assistance in all IDP areas,” Ms. Kang stressed.

She noted that renewed fighting over the past months in southern Kachin and northern Shan state led to the displacement of many people for the second, third, or fourth time.

“It is essential that all parties ensure the protection of civilians and the full respect of international humanitarian law, while looking ahead in the long term to develop durable solutions for displaced people and host communities.”

During her visit, Ms. Kang held a series of meetings with national officials, during which she reiterated the UN’s continued commitment to support the Government in responding to humanitarian needs in Myanmar and reminded the authorities of their responsibility to ensure that justice is rendered and that the perpetrators of the March attacks are brought to justice.


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