UNHCR begins aid airlift for IDPs in western Myanmar

23 November 2012

A first airlift of UNHCR tents to the victims of recent violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state left Dubai this morning and is expected to arrive in Myanmar shortly. This follows an appeal this week by the UN refugee agency and partner agencies for additional funds to cover humanitarian needs in the affected areas.
The plane that left Dubai today is the first of two planned flights for this weekend. Dubai is home to UNHCR’s emergency stockpiles. In all 3,500 family-sized tents are being provided for 17,500 internally displaced people.
Since the unrest erupted in June, UNHCR has already distributed over 500 tents from in-country stocks and 700 tents donated by the Korea International Cooperation Agency. But the shelter needs are immense, with renewed violence in late October bringing the number of IDPs in Rakhine state to more than 115,000.
The existing relief camps are overcrowded, and host families are struggling to support themselves. Some people are living on the sites of their burnt-out homes, while others are sleeping on boats or taking refuge on islets. The displaced population is in urgent need of a safe place to stay.
Under the inter-agency response in Rakhine state, UNHCR is the lead agency for emergency shelter, non-food relief items, camp coordination and camp management, and protection. It is seeking US$24.35 million to meet these needs until next June.
Shelter needs vary across Rakhine state. In the northern township of Maungdaw, UNHCR and its partners are working to rebuild homes to support the return of people affected by the June unrest. In and around the state capital Sittwe, the priority is to provide temporary shelters for IDPs who cannot yet return home amidst ongoing inter-communal tensions. The government, together with UNHCR and the World Food Programme, has built longhouse-style shelters for more than 4,000 families
To date, UNHCR has distributed relief items for more than 50,000 IDPs. This includes plastic sheets, blankets, mosquito nets, jerry cans and kitchen sets, as well as family items such as clothing and hygiene materials. An additional 25,000 kits of basic relief items and 25,000 kits of family items are needed.
The Myanmar Government is responsible for the management of the 24 IDP camps around Sittwe. UNHCR is providing support by coordinating services such as water, sanitation and health care in compliance with basic humanitarian standards and protection principles. The agency is also working to ensure equitable aid distribution in the camps and the guarantee of basic safety and security for camp residents. At the same time, it is training government officials in camp management, setting up mechanisms to engage IDPs, map displacement trends and monitor protection issues in the congested camps.
While we work to deliver urgent humanitarian aid, the protection needs of the affected population remain a priority for us. Since the June unrest, we have seen increased restrictions on movement, which is affecting people’s livelihoods and food security. Access to basic services has also been difficult. If not addressed, these problems could trigger further displacement.
The longer-term solution lies in promoting community reconciliation and addressing the underlying causes of inter-communal tensions in Rakhine state, namely the lack of citizenship which is affecting a significant number of the population of Rakhine State. UNHCR is ready to support the government and to provide expertise on issues relating to citizenship laws.

UN and Myanmar seek additional $41 million to help those affected by violence in Rakhine state

November 21, 2012
The United Nations and Myanmar are seeking an additional $41 million as part of a revised response plan to provide urgent humanitarian relief for some 115,000 people who have been displaced by inter-communal violence in the state of Rakhine and are lacking basic services.

“A decisive response by donors with immediate funding will provide urgently needed life-saving aid such as emergency shelter, clean drinking water, food and healthcare,” said the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, Ashok Nigam, at the launch of the revised response plan in the city of Yangon.

“Tens of thousands of people are living in terrible conditions and they desperately need our help” he stressed at the launch of the plan in Yangon,” he added.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the response plan had originally sought $32.5 million to cover the period of July-December 2012, before its revision to $67.6 million to cover the period of July 2012-June 2013. So far, it has received $27 million.

The funds will go towards provide humanitarian aid up until June next year.

The north of Rakhine state has been the site of inter-communal violence over recent months. The violence first began in June, with clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, which eventually led the Government to declare a state of emergency there.

That bout of violence reportedly left at least a dozen civilians dead and hundreds of homes destroyed, while internally displacing some 75,000 people. Since then, at least 89 people have been killed and 36,000 displaced in the wake of a renewed upsurge in violence, beginning in late September, which also left more than 5,300 houses and religious buildings destroyed, according to UN estimates.

During the launch of the revised response plan, the UN and its civil society partners reiterated their commitment to the people of Myanmar and of Rakhine, stressing that humanitarian aid is provided in strict accordance with humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality and humanity.

“We are ready to work together with the Government and with the communities to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those who need humanitarian assistance in both communities, and to contribute to create a climate of mutual trust and understanding where tolerance and compassion towards the most unfortunate prevail,” said Mr. Nigam.

The UN official also thanked the Government of Myanmar for its openness and support for the humanitarian response.

President Thein Sein Pledges to Deal with Perpetrators of ‘Senseless Violence’

November 16, 2012

The Secretary-General of the United Nations today received a letter from the President of Myanmar, U Thein Sein.  In the letter, the President condemned the “criminal acts” of elements inside his country that caused the “senseless violence” that resulted in widespread loss of life, destruction of property and displacement of families in the Rakhine State.   He promised to deal with the perpetrators in accordance with the rule of law.


In his letter, the President noted that “once emotions subside on all sides” his Government was prepared to “address contentious political dimensions, ranging from resettlement of displaced populations to granting of citizenship”, as well as to look at “issues of birth registration, work permits and permits for movement across the country for all, in line with a uniform national practice across the country ensuring that they are in keeping with accepted international norms”.  He underlined the commitment of the Government to meet the humanitarian needs of individuals and communities in the affected areas and sought wider international assistance and cooperation in this regard.


Separately, on 16 November, President U Thein Sein met senior members of the Buddhist and Muslim communities, including the members of the clergy.  He strongly called upon these leaders to exert maximum effort to foster harmony and cooperation between the communities.


The Secretary-General welcomes both President U Thein Sein’s letter, as well as his recent meeting as positive steps in the right direction.  He further welcomes the assurances conveyed on behalf of the Government of Myanmar, in respect of the immediate and longer-term issues connected with the troubles in Rakhine that would be carefully noted by the international community.  The United Nations will work closely with the Government and people of Myanmar to help the affected people in the Rakhine State, as well as support the measures that will need to be taken to comprehensively address the issues at the heart of the situation there.