CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

Print Version    Email to Friend
United Nations appeals for humanitarian access to Myanmar’s restive areas

MANDALAY (UCAN): Ursula Mueller, the United Nations (UN) assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief coordinator, has called for unfettered humanitarian access to several crisis-hit states of Myanmar including the restive Rakhine state where large numbers of the Rohingya Muslim minority have fled security forces for Bangladesh since August 2017.
 
Mueller said in a statement on April 8, that restrictions on humanitarian access in Myanmar have “significantly worsened” in the past year, pointing out that it is not only a problem in Rakhine but also in Kachin and Shan states where some humanitarian aid efforts have been hampered.
 
“When you cut that humanitarian lifeline, there is a very real human impact,” Mueller said as she concluded a six-day visit to the country.
 
In Rakhine, humanitarian assistance by the UN and non-government organisations (NGO) has been restricted since violence in the state’s north broke out after Rohingya militants attacked a number of border posts in August last year. Since then more than 688,000 Rohingya have fled and become refugees in neighbouring Bangladesh.
 
“There is a humanitarian crisis on both sides of the Bangladesh-Myanmar border that is affecting the world’s largest group of stateless people,” Mueller said.
 
“The unfolding tragedy in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar rightly captured the world’s attention, but we cannot and must not forget the plight of over 400,000 Muslim people still living in Rakhine State who continue to face a life of hardship and marginalisation due to movement restrictions,” she said.  
 
“These restrictions (on humanitarian access) severely compromise their rights and obstruct their access to health, livelihoods, protection, education and other essential services,” Mueller pointed out.
 
The Myanmese government has so far only given the World Food Program (WFP) and the Red Cross access Rakhine State.
 
The Red Cross said it has been providing more than 200,000 people with aid in the state’s affected regions.
 
Numar, a Rohingya resident from Pan Taw Pyin village, Maungdaw, in northern Rakhine, said villagers have received food items from WFP and the Red Cross.
 
“It is just enough for survival,” Numar said, adding, “People here have no employment opportunities.” 
 
Aid workers say there are restrictions on providing humanitarian assistance to the camps for internally displaced persons, especially in controlled areas in Kachin and northern Shan States.
 
But Eddie, a programme manager of Karuna (Caritas) Myanmar’s Lashio branch, said as a Church-based organisation it has not faced any difficulties in providing humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced in camps in Shan State.
 
“For the UN and NGOs, there are more restrictions on providing humanitarian assistance and more of a need to inform the respective authorities,” Eddie said.
 
“Humanitarian workers who are foreigners are mostly based in Lashio as they need to await long process for permission to go beyond,” he added. 
 
In Kachin and northern Shan States, fighting between the Myanmese military and ethnic rebels was reignited in June 2011. Since then more than 100,000 people affected by the conflict have sought refuge in camps. 

More from this section