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World: Global Emergency Overview Snapshot 20-26 August

26 August 2014 - 9:07am
Source: Assessment Capacities Project Country: Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, World, Yemen, South Sudan preview

Syria: Only 41% of Syria’s public hospitals are fully operational. The latest in a number of local truces around Damascus has been agreed between state forces and opposition in Qadam. 191,369 people were reported killed March 2011–April 2014, mainly in Rural Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Idleb, Dar’a and Hama, according to new UN figures.

Sudan: Conflict between Maaliya and Rizeigat has killed at least 300 people over five days in the Karinka locality of East Darfur. Police were deployed to stop the fighting. 256,000 people across 12 states are now affected by flooding, an increase of 80,000 in a week; 70,000 are affected in Blue Nile state alone.

DRC: An Ebola epidemic, unrelated to the outbreak in West Africa, has been declared in Equateur province, with 16 cases reported, including five deaths. 577 cases of febrile bloody diarrhoea have also been reported in Equateur. Clashes between FARDC and Raiya Mutomboki displaced 12,400 in South Kivu, while in Katanga violence between pygmies and Luba is worsening.

Iraq: Heavy fighting continues in the north. As more IDPs head south, there are concerns that central governorates are reaching saturation point. 20,000 Syrian refugees have returned to Syria.

Updated: 26/08/2014. Next update: 02/09/2014

Global Emergency Overview Web Interface

World: Communications with Communities Asia-Pacific Newsletter August 2014

25 August 2014 - 9:43pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, World preview

This update seeks to support growth in innovative policy, practice and partnerships in humanitarian action to better communicate with disaster-affected communities. Readers are encouraged to forward this email through their own networks.

Myanmar

Recruitment - Communications with Communities Consultant –3 months based in Sittwe, Rakhine State - The post will have primary responsibility for developing an overarching CwC (Communications with Communities) Strategy for the 'Save the Children-led Consortium' for the implementation of Humanitarian WASH and Nutrition Programme.

News - Myanmar Will Be the First Smartphone Only Country - Today, Myanmar has the same mobile phone usage as North Korea, Eritrea, and Cuba – less than 10% – with only the urban elite owning smartphones, and mobile networks limited in scope and functionality. Yet technology restrictions are ending, and three mobile operators are racing to roll out services to 60 million across the country.

News - Myanmar’s new mobile internet users embrace Android smartphones, pick Viber over Facebook – An ‘On Device Research’ survey found that Viber has scored an early win in Myanmar in the heated messaging app battle. Viber scores 79 percent of users versus 27 percent on Facebook Messenger. Clearly people are using multiple messaging apps.

Summary Report – ICT and Disaster Response Workshop, hosted by OCHA and FHI 360 on 6 August 2014. The Workshop was attended by 35 people from humanitarian agencies (UN, INGO and NGO), private sector, telecoms companies, media development agencies and Myanmar TV. The Workshop Report provides a summary of the day where there was agreement on the importance of technology, awareness that there are several different initiatives going on with little opportunity to share information and conflict sensitivity and the need for ethnic minority languages to be addressed.

Philippines

News – “Moving forward after Haiyan – The Story of Radyo Abante”, by Leoniza O. Morales, World Vision.

Response Update - The OCHA Communications with Communities team are working as part of the Preparedness unit in supporting the first Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) Emergency Preparedness Plan.

In Zamboanga, a SMS blast system (which now sends to IDPs) was set up by the Communications Working Group (CWG) as part of its two-way communication strategy.

In Tacloban, OCHA, IOM and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) conducted the first regional Right to Information (RTI) workshop for sub-national information and communication officers of various government agencies. The workshop further enhances the coordinated communications system and feedback platform for affected communities.

Nepal

Common Messaging - After several months of committed and engaged work with the Government of Nepal, UN, Red Cross Movement, International and local NGOs, theNepal Risk Reduction Consortium (NRRC) Communications Group has finalized the first edition of a Common Messages Guideline for Disaster Risk Reduction.

These guidelines outline the need for coordinated and coherent messaging and how organizations can use common messages to strengthen collective efforts in awareness and behavior change. The guidelines outline 10 key messages for DRR, earthquakes, floods, landslides and fires that organizations are encouraged to use and customize for their communications purposes.

Moving forward, the NRRC Communications Group will be finalizing a common messages platform to strengthen access to messages and showcase communications products that have been developed using the messages. In addition, the NRRC Communications Group is in the process of finalizing 10 key messages for thunderstorms.

Global

News – Many of the world's most talented young computer programmers are now based in cities like Nairobi, Hyderabad or Rio de Janeiro. They are driven by a powerful belief that communications technology can deliver social change.

Al Jazeera’s Life Apps programme follows young applications developers from around the world as they visit remote communities to experience the everyday hardships of the poor and marginalized - and then create app solutions for a better, more sustainable world.

Tech – “Crowdsourcing the fight for human rights” - In closed societies around the world, brave human rights defenders face enormous hurdles to advance human rights.Movements.org is a new platform that allows people everywhere to help protect basic freedoms.

Tech - Who is distributing solar lights that recharge mobile phones in Iraq?

Myanmar: Locals flee extreme floods in Hpakant

25 August 2014 - 9:21am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

Most neighbourhoods in Hpakant, a jade-mining town in Burma’s northern Kachin State, have been evacuated following days of heavy rain.

All quarters except for those at high altitudes were flooded by overflow from the Uru River over the past week. The most hard-hit areas are Ayemyatharyar, Mashikahtaung, Myoma and Ngetpyawdaw, according to locals affiliated with a community organisation called Parami.

On Monday, locals said that water levels had lessened to some degree but that transportation is still difficult as most roads are still underwater.

Hpakant, an area rich with coveted jade stones, has seen a recent influx of illegal, small-scale mining operations since the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire between the Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Army. The conflict brought commercial operations to a stop, leading many of the remote state’s poor population to rush in and capitalise on the gems.

Burma’s Ministry of Mining announced earlier this year that commercial mining operations will resume in September, however.

Last week, Malaysia’s UMW Group announced it had secured contracts worth US$63 million to supply more than 60 units of Komatsu equipment - presumably excavators, caterpillars and bulldozers – to jade mining firms in the township.

Myanmar: Visit to Myanmar by United Nations Special Adviser to the Secretary General

25 August 2014 - 9:12am
Source: UN Information Centres Country: Myanmar

Visit to Myanmar by Mr. Vijay Nambiar, United Nations Special Adviser to the Secretary-General

The Special Adviser to Secretary-General Mr. Vijay Nambiar visited Myanmar from 18 to 25 August in pursuance of his mandate. Undertaken ahead of the 69th session of the General Assembly, this was Mr. Nambiar's eighth visit to the country during the past year.

The Special Adviser was received by President Thein Sein on 22 August and held discussions with senior officials including Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin, Senior Ministers in the President's Office U Soe Thane and U Aung Min, Minister for Immigration and Population Affairs U Khin Yi and with Rakhine Chief Minister U Maung Maung Ohn. During his visit he also met with the Speaker of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Thura Shwe Mann and with Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice Senior General Soe Win of the Tatmadaw and held consultations with members of political parties, ethnic armed groups, civil society, aid agencies, women and youth organizations as well as with diplomatic representatives. The Special Adviser had met with opposition leader Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi during his earlier visit in July this year.

At the invitation of the Government, the Special Adviser participated as observer at a tripartite meeting of the UPWC, NCCT and representatives of various political parties in the discussion on the peace process including the finalisation of a nationwide ceasefire and framework of a political dialogue. This discussion held in Yangon on 18 August was the first of its kind held in the country. On behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Mr. Nambiar conveyed a key message to all stakeholders to take a leap of faith and to set aside all narrow agendas in the common interest of peace and a unified Myanmar.

In addition to meetings in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, the Special Adviser visited Rakhine from 23 to 25 August to obtain a first-hand understanding of the latest situation and progress in relief efforts to assist the local communities including the population affected by the violence of the past months as well as actions being taken to address underlying causes. In his discussions with the authorities, Mr. Nambiar highlighted that translating various plans and commitments, including with regard to the urgent resumption of humanitarian assistance in Rakhine, would help address prevailing tensions and pave the way for sustainable solutions.

In his exchanges with various interlocutors, the Special Adviser touched on areas relating to the reform and democratization process, development, national reconciliation and the strengthening of harmony and cooperation between the communities and ethnic groups as well as emerging constitutional and other issues. He underlined the commitment of the United Nations in providing support to Myanmar during this critical period of the reform process in the country as well as its working constructively with all major national stakeholders.

Yangon, 25 August 2014

Ends

Myanmar: Making the right choices

25 August 2014 - 8:17am
Source: DanChurchAid Country: Myanmar

25.08.2014 by Maiken Skeem

In Myanmar village development committees help women to make the right choices – not only for the benefit of their own families but also for the benefit of the entire village.

We are sitting on the wooden floor in the newly constructed community meeting hall in the village of Kan Hla in northern Myanmar. This small community was moved from their original village around 1 km. away from here. A new electro hydro dam was built where they used to live and they had to give space.

70 women and men have turned up to meet today’s visitors. Life in the old village was easier, they tell. Now everything is more difficult.

“We used to do shifting cultivation, this is what we know. But now we are not sure if that will be the best option in our new village. We don’t know any alternatives to shifting cultivation,” says Khin Mya New who is a member of the village’s VDC (Village Development Committee).

When relocated the authorities promised to allocate land for permanent agriculture - but so far nothing has happened. The villagers were only told verbally. There was no contract and no signature.

Challenges

Organising the villagers in a VDC means that they are now able to take up common issues with the authorities in a constructive way. They will continue to discuss with the clerk in the Township administration. But there is also another challenge: Not all villagers have the same size of land and they certainly don’t agree how the new land should be distributed.

“The government expects us to come to an agreement internally and to come up with a plan to how we want to distribute the land between us. Unless we do that it is not very likely that the authorities will allocate the new, promised piece of land,” adds Ei Ei Khaing, who is another member of the VDC.

There are plenty of challenges waiting for Khin Mya Nwe, Ei Ei Khaing and the other members of the VDC.

Independent and confident

Both women were both appointed by the community as they were already volunteering in social work in the village. Being members of the VDC means a lot to both of them. They seem proud and confident in their job.

"I am independent now – depending less on my parents. I used the compensation from the government to construct a house (1 mio Kyat/5.500 DKK). I also borrowed money from the self help group to start a small shop selling basic household items,” tells Khin Mya New and adds:

“We spend time in the VDC for the benefit of the community - but it also helps us personally. We learn how to set up meetings and how to negotiate. Acquiring these skills also makes it easier to make the right choices for me and my family. You could even say that my self-esteem is much better now. Before all women used to sit behind and keep quiet when there were village meetings, now after the training, we are more confident and speak out.”

Myanmar: Arakanese Leaders to Propose Detention Camps for Undocumented Rohingya

24 August 2014 - 10:35pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG

RANGOON — Buddhist Arakanese leaders are considering a proposal that would see Rohingya Muslims without documentation proving their right to citizenship detained in camps.

The plan will be discussed publicly in the Arakan State capital, Sittwe, in the coming days, said Than Tun, an Arakanese leader and a member of the state’s Emergency Coordination Committee, and comes as a citizenship verification project is restarted for Muslims in Arakan State.

Clashes between ethnic Arakanese and Rohingya broke out in mid-2012 and about 140,000 people, mostly Muslims, still live in temporary camps after fleeing their homes. Arakanese Buddhists see the Rohingya, who are not a recognized ethnic group under Burmese law, as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and refer to them as Bengalis.

The nascent verification process—currently only underway in earnest in Myabon Township—is being conducted by the Ministry of Immigration to find out who is entitled to citizenship, based on how long their families have been settled in Burma.

Than Tun said a proposal would be sent to President Thein Sein asking that those who are not able to provide documentation be rounded up into camps.

“This is just our draft proposal. We will have a public meeting this week. After that, we will send the draft to the president. At the public meeting we will ask for [the public’s] agreement,” Than Tun told The Irrawaddy.

“This proposal refers to all Bengalis who stay in Arakan, including both those who stay in villages and those in refugee camps. This proposal comes from Sittwe, but it will be presented from all Arakanese.”

With Arakan State already dotted with large makeshift camps full of those displaced in earlier rounds of violence, the Burmese government may have to put undocumented Muslims elsewhere in Burma, Than Tun said.

“We will tell him [Thein Sein] if there is a problem to set up a camp for the people in Arakan, he can set up a camp in a suitable area in the union [Burma],” said Than Tun, who predicted that many people without documentation would be found in Sittwe, Maungdaw Township and Buthidaung Township.

“Firstly, they migrated to our land and they were illegal migrants. But they had children, and those children are born in our land, so we cannot say their children are illegal. But, their children are still illegal settlers.”

An estimated 1 million Rohingya live in Arakan State, many tracing their roots in the area back generations. Only a handful of people—who must first agree to identify themselves as Bengali—have so far taken part in the citizenship verification process.

A Rohingya activist said that many displaced people would not have possession of their documents, since they fled their homes to escape Buddhist mobs.

“They killed us and burned our houses. We did not have time to bring documents with us. If the government asks us for documents, we don’t have them,” said Aung Win from Sittwe, arguing that such lost documents should be replaced by the government.

“They should not say that those who do not have documents are stateless. If the government does this in Sittwe, our people will not go to the verification center.”

Myanmar: Drugs and development in the Wa region

24 August 2014 - 10:23pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By AYE NAI

United Wa State Army (UWSA) spokesman Aung Myint speaks to DVB about drugs, development and education in the Wa region.

Q: What role do you think the UWSA will play in the drug eradication programme that Burma has agreed to implement with the United Nations?

A: Needless to say, we realised once we made peace with the Burmese government in 1993 that growing opium as a business venture does not improve the lifestyle of our people; in fact, it is more likely to harm them, especially children. Drugs could lead to our extinction.

From that point, we adopted a policy to propagate, persuade and lead our people in the right direction.

In 1995, we adopted a ten-year programme for opium eradication. In 2005, we were completely opium free –we substituted opium plantations with rubber, tea and other cash crops such as sandalwood. Also, we use the best of our limited knowledge to mine minerals. But we have now completely eradicated the opium the English brought to us more than 100 years ago.

As a result, we have seen much more development in our region than, say, 20 years ago. Back in those days, we had no roads. Over the past 25 years, we have upgraded dirt tracks into gravel roads. We are now working on a five-year plan to further upgrade them – stretching about 700-800km in total – into two-lane, tarmac roads. Once this is completed, transportation in the region should be a lot more efficient and convenient.

If we can operate transportation correctly, local businesses will gradually grow. Now we have rubber plantation projects in many villages, which is creating income for many households. Nowadays many Wa people can afford to own motorbikes. This is a clear mark of improvement in the region’s economy.

Q: Can you tell us more about the two-lane road construction? When did it start?

A: We are now in the second year of a five-year plan to build two-lane roads over a stretch of about 700 km. So far, we have paved tarmac on about 200 to 300 km. We have also levelled the terrain, which is a large-scale project.

Q: So this may lead to the opening of schools, and further development in the region?

A: We have opened schools in many villages and towns in the Wa region. In the past, we did not have high literacy. Many adults were uneducated and could not even speak Burmese.

I think we now have about 300 schools in the Wa region. Our education policy is not restricted –if a teacher specialises in Burmese language, then he or she may open or run a Burmese language school, and the same applies for Shan, Wa and Chinese language lessons. We believe that education is worthwhile no matter which language is taught. We also encourage the study of mathematics and such. What we are trying to do is to develop middle and high schools that can accommodate students from different language backgrounds. So far we have about nine high schools like that.

World: Global Humanitarian Overview - Status Report, August 2014

22 August 2014 - 1:29pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Gambia, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Philippines, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, World, Yemen, South Sudan preview

2014 has seen a major surge in humanitarian crises around the world. Inter-agency strategic response and regional response plans now target over 76 million people in thirty-one countries compared to 52 million in December 2013. 102 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance compared to 81 million in December 2013. Global financial requirements to cover humanitarian needs rose from US$12.9 billion in 2013 to $17.3 billion now. More and more crises are having a regional impact with a spill-over effect on countries which are already fragile.

Five crises have been classified by Principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee as “L3 emergencies”. L3s are considered to be the highest level of crisis requiring sustained, top level, system-wide support focused on leadership and coordination to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian response efforts. The response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines was declared an L3 emergency in November. An estimated 11.3 million people in nine regions of the Philippines were affected by Typhoon Haiyan. At least 6,201 people were killed and the force of the storm caused widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure in many towns.

The ongoing L3 emergencies in Syria, the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan are all complex crises which have resulted in significant internal displacement resulting from conflict and ongoing insecurity and the need for protection. They have also become regional crises with political, security, development and humanitarian consequences in their region. In Syria, the number of people in need is estimated to have risen from 9.3 million in December 2013 to 10.8 million now.
As many as 6.5 million men, women and children are dis- placed inside the country and over 2.9 million refugees have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and other countries. The breakdown of law and order and ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic has resulted in more than 518,000 people displaced internally and more than 171,273 people have crossed the border into Chad, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo. Since December 2013, South Sudan faces a looming famine, 1.3 million people are displaced internally and more than 447,000 people have fled into Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda since December 2013. At the rate of escalation of the crisis an estimated 6 million people will either be refugees, displaced inside their country or face severe food insecurity by the end of the year. Most recently, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq has been declared an L3 emergency. Over 1.2 million people have been displaced and are dispersed throughout the Governorates of Neneveh, Salah Al-Din, Diyala, Al-Anbar and Baghdad due to the current conflict. Access to clean water has emerged as a critical, life- threatening problem. Food security is a growing concern.

In addition to the L3s, a number of major crises require ongoing attention. In nine countries across the Sahel, the drought of 2012 exacerbated the devastating cycle of malnutrition and poverty in the region leaving more than 20.2 million people food insecure, of whom 11.9 million people will receive food assistance this year. 2.9 million children will be treated for moderate and severe acute malnutrition across the Sahel. Rising severe and acute malnutrition rates in DRC and Sudan also require a sustained and strengthened humanitarian response. Some 6.7 million people are food insecure in DRC and 5 million others in Sudan. In DRC, 35 per cent of children’s deaths are attributed to malnutrition. 14.7 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance in Yemen.

Protection needs remain high in many complex and protracted crises. In DRC for example, protection against sexual and gender-based violence remains a critical area of humanitarian response. Crises in Somalia, Haiti, Myanmar, Djibouti, Sudan, Mali, the occupied Palestine territory and Afghanistan all demand ongoing high level engagement and response. Political upheaval and social unrest have flared into violence in Ukraine and Gaza.

To respond to these ongoing as well as emerging crises, evidence-based, strategic and targeted humanitarian response plans have been developed for each country/ region. As situations evolve plans are revised or extended.

To date in 2014 donor partners have enabled 608 aid agencies and their partners to scale-up life-saving operations to support national efforts and help affected people. Details of the flow of humanitarian funding as reflected by the Financial Tracking Service as of 19 August are on pages 12 and 13 of this overview.

The $17.3 billion combined requirements for 2014 represent the highest amount ever requested in a single year for inter-agency strategic response plans and exceed the sum required last year by more than 30 per cent. The majority of requirements are for L3 emergencies. With 43 per cent of funding for 2014 received, another $9.9 billion is required. A pledging conference organized by the Government of Kuwait, a high-level meeting in Brussels and a pledging conference co-organized by OCHA and Norway in Oslo elicited pledges of over $3 billion for the Syria, CAR and South Sudan L3 crises. Efforts will continue throughout the rest of the year to raise the sums required.

World: Global Humanitarian Overview - Status Report

22 August 2014 - 1:29pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Gambia, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Philippines, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, World, Yemen, South Sudan preview

2014 has seen a major surge in humanitarian crises around the world. Inter-agency strategic response and regional response plans now target over 76 million people in thirty-one countries compared to 52 million in December 2013. 102 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance compared to 81 million in December 2013. Global financial requirements to cover humanitarian needs rose from US$12.9 billion in 2013 to $17.3 billion now. More and more crises are having a regional impact with a spill-over effect on countries which are already fragile.

Five crises have been classified by Principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee as “L3 emergencies”. L3s are considered to be the highest level of crisis requiring sustained, top level, system-wide support focused on leadership and coordination to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian response efforts. The response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines was declared an L3 emergency in November. An estimated 11.3 million people in nine regions of the Philippines were affected by Typhoon Haiyan. At least 6,201 people were killed and the force of the storm caused widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure in many towns.

The ongoing L3 emergencies in Syria, the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan are all complex crises which have resulted in significant internal displacement resulting from conflict and ongoing insecurity and the need for protection. They have also become regional crises with political, security, development and humanitarian consequences in their region. In Syria, the number of people in need is estimated to have risen from 9.3 million in December 2013 to 10.8 million now.
As many as 6.5 million men, women and children are dis- placed inside the country and over 2.9 million refugees have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and other countries. The breakdown of law and order and ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic has resulted in more than 518,000 people displaced internally and more than 171,273 people have crossed the border into Chad, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo. Since December 2013, South Sudan faces a looming famine, 1.3 million people are displaced internally and more than 447,000 people have fled into Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda since December 2013. At the rate of escalation of the crisis an estimated 6 million people will either be refugees, displaced inside their country or face severe food insecurity by the end of the year. Most recently, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq has been declared an L3 emergency. Over 1.2 million people have been displaced and are dispersed throughout the Governorates of Neneveh, Salah Al-Din, Diyala, Al-Anbar and Baghdad due to the current conflict. Access to clean water has emerged as a critical, life- threatening problem. Food security is a growing concern.

In addition to the L3s, a number of major crises require ongoing attention. In nine countries across the Sahel, the drought of 2012 exacerbated the devastating cycle of malnutrition and poverty in the region leaving more than 20.2 million people food insecure, of whom 11.9 million people will receive food assistance this year. 2.9 million children will be treated for moderate and severe acute malnutrition across the Sahel. Rising severe and acute malnutrition rates in DRC and Sudan also require a sustained and strengthened humanitarian response. Some 6.7 million people are food insecure in DRC and 5 million others in Sudan. In DRC, 35 per cent of children’s deaths are attributed to malnutrition. 14.7 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance in Yemen.

Protection needs remain high in many complex and protracted crises. In DRC for example, protection against sexual and gender-based violence remains a critical area of humanitarian response. Crises in Somalia, Haiti, Myanmar, Djibouti, Sudan, Mali, the occupied Palestine territory and Afghanistan all demand ongoing high level engagement and response. Political upheaval and social unrest have flared into violence in Ukraine and Gaza.

To respond to these ongoing as well as emerging crises, evidence-based, strategic and targeted humanitarian response plans have been developed for each country/ region. As situations evolve plans are revised or extended.

To date in 2014 donor partners have enabled 608 aid agencies and their partners to scale-up life-saving operations to support national efforts and help affected people. Details of the flow of humanitarian funding as reflected by the Financial Tracking Service as of 19 August are on pages 12 and 13 of this overview.

The $17.3 billion combined requirements for 2014 represent the highest amount ever requested in a single year for inter-agency strategic response plans and exceed the sum required last year by more than 30 per cent. The majority of requirements are for L3 emergencies. With 43 per cent of funding for 2014 received, another $9.9 billion is required. A pledging conference organized by the Government of Kuwait, a high-level meeting in Brussels and a pledging conference co-organized by OCHA and Norway in Oslo elicited pledges of over $3 billion for the Syria, CAR and South Sudan L3 crises. Efforts will continue throughout the rest of the year to raise the sums required.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Refugee and IDP Camp Populations: July 2014

22 August 2014 - 8:09am
Source: The Border Consortium Country: Myanmar preview

Myanmar: South-East Asia Irregular Maritime Movements

22 August 2014 - 7:17am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand preview

UNHCR: Over 20,000 people risked lives in Indian Ocean in first half of 2014

A new UNHCR report on irregular maritime movements in South East Asia estimates that 20,000 people risked their lives in sea crossings in the first half of this year. Many were Rohingya who fled Myanmar and arrived in the region suffering the effects of malnutrition and abuse during the journey. Several hundred people were also intercepted on boats heading to Australia.

The report has been produced by a newly-established Maritime Movements Monitoring Unit at UNHCR’s Regional Office in Bangkok which collates information through direct interviews, and from media reports, partners and governments. It focuses on departures from the Bay of Bengal and elsewhere passing through South-East Asia, and highlights the abuses people are facing on their journeys, and developments related to Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy. It also shows that more than 7,000 asylum seekers and refugees who have travelled by sea are at present held in detention facilities in the region, including over 5,000 in Australia or its offshore processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Because of its clandestine nature, the full extent of people smuggling remains hard to determine. But in-depth interviews with survivors have offered insights into what goes on during the long and arduous journey from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and beyond.

These developments take place in the context of a very challenging protection environment for refugees in the region. States including Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia are not signatory to the refugee convention and lack formal legal frameworks for dealing with refugees. Without a legal status they are often at risk of arrest, detention, and deportation under immigration laws. It also makes legal employment impossible and drives many people, including women and children, into exploitative and vulnerable situations.

Myanmar/Bangladesh

The report estimates that 53,000 people departed irregularly by sea from the Bay of Bengal in the 12 months ending June 2014 – a 61 per cent increase over the previous 12 months. In the two years following the June 2012 outbreak of inter-communal violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, some 87,000 people – mostly Rohingya but also Bangladeshis among them – embarked on the dangerous journey in search of safety and stability.

The main sailing season has continued to be between October and the first quarter of the year when seas are calmer. Departures were mostly from Teknaf in Bangladesh and Maungdaw in Myanmar, with smaller numbers from Sittwe. Typically, passengers were ferried on small boats to larger fishing or cargo boats that could each hold up to 700 people. Most were men, but there were also rising numbers of women and children who were usually kept in separate quarters.

Most passengers our staff interviewed said they paid between US$50 and US$300 to board the boats and were at sea for an average of one to two weeks. Some waited for up to two months for their boat to take on more passengers. Many said they fell sick along the way. There are also unconfirmed reports of deaths due to illness, heat, a lack of food and water and severe beatings when people tried to move. Some passengers reportedly jumped off boats in desperation. Others went missing when, in one example, they were forced to swim ashore after nearing the coast off Thailand.

Thailand

In Thailand, the survivors of sea journeys said they were packed into pick-up trucks at night, and forced to sit or lie on top of up to 20 other people. They were taken to smugglers’ camps in or around hills, jungles or plantations. Hundreds were confined, for up to six months, behind wooden fences with only plastic sheets to sleep on.

Many were unaware that they would need to pay more money, usually US$1,500-US$2,200, to be released. They were made to call relatives in Myanmar, Bangladesh or Malaysia to send money through hard currency, bank transfers or mobile payment systems. Those who could not pay would be beaten and detained for long periods of time.

Survivors of this ordeal told our staff about people dying in these smugglers’ camps due to illness or physical injuries. Some lost sensory abilities and mobility from beriberi due to malnutrition, specifically Vitamin B1 deficiency. Three people were effectively paralyzed and abandoned by the smugglers when their camps were raided by the Thai authorities. The camps in question no longer exist, although others are believed to still be running.

As of early July, 233 Rohingya remained in Thai immigration detention centres or shelters. UNHCR is discussing different alternatives to detention with our government counterparts and other stakeholders. In the meantime we are providing the group with material assistance and counselling them on the risks of using smuggling networks. Our staff are also working with the authorities and UNICEF to enable the children to attend local schools after intensive Thai language lessons. Vulnerable individuals, including unaccompanied children, are being given particular attention to meet their specific needs.

Malaysia

In Malaysia, UNHCR has had access to 230 people who arrived directly by boat between January and June, as well as to others who landed by boat in Thailand and made their way across the land border into Malaysia. In total, more than 4,700 Rohingya were registered during this period, including 375 unaccompanied and separated children. By the end of June, more than 38,000 Rohingya had registered with UNHCR Malaysia cumulatively since the late 1990s.

The physical health and protection needs of recent arrivals remain a major concern. In the first half of the year, we saw 144 Rohingya with symptoms of beriberi. UNHCR has provided vitamin supplements for immediate treatment, and is referring cases to healthcare providers. Two Rohingya have died in hospital within a week of approaching UNHCR.

Indonesia

Sixty Rohingya approached UNHCR in Indonesia between January and June – a drop of almost 90 per cent compared to the same period last year. By the end of June 2014, there were 951 Rohingya registered with UNHCR, mainly people who arrived in previous years. Most are believed to have arrived by boat from Malaysia, together with other nationalities of arrivals to Indonesia.

Australia

In the first half of the year, nine boats travelling towards Australia with more than 400 people were intercepted by the Australian authorities under the government’s Operation Sovereign Borders. Seven boats were returned to Indonesia. One boat with 41 passengers was returned to Sri Lanka following accelerated screening procedures by the government. The 157 people on board another boat that left from India were transferred to Nauru, pending a decision by the Australian High Court on how to process them.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

In Bangkok, Vivian Tan on mobile +66 818 270 280 In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120 Dan McNorton on mobile +41 79 217 3011

Myanmar: Trafficked Myanmar Fishermen Return Home from Indonesia

22 August 2014 - 5:28am
Source: International Organization for Migration Country: Indonesia, Myanmar

Indonesia - The IOM missions in Myanmar and Indonesia have organized a joint operation to return home a group of 14 Myanmar nationals who were trafficked onto Thai fishing boats in Indonesian waters earlier this year.

The men – all recruited from the same village in western Myanmar with the promise of well-paid jobs in Thailand – initially experienced two months of forced manual labour south of Bangkok. They were then “sold” to the captain of a fishing boat for THB 30,000 per person (USD 935), according to one of the returned victims. For the next five months, they were subjected to 20-hour working days, violence at the hands of the crew, sleep and food deprivation, and denial of wages.

In June, while docked at Ambon Island in Indonesia, the Myanmar crewmen fled the boat, and made contact with relatives in Myanmar, who then alerted the Myanmar Government’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATIPD) and IOM. A rescue operation, which lasted one week, was then launched with the Ambon Immigration Office.

On 20 August, the returnees were received at Yangon International Airport by IOM staff and ATIPD officials. The voluntary return operation brings to 118 the number of trafficked Myanmar men exploited in the fishing industry who have been helped to return home by IOM since April 2013. To date IOM has supported a total of 15 return operations to bring home Myanmar fishermen trafficked to Indonesia.

IOM Indonesia Chief of Mission Denis Nihill said: “When the rescue was launched, IOM staff were on-site in Ambon to conduct interviews with the men and offer immediate assistance. We worked closely with the Directorate-General of Immigration to ensure that the men’s immediate needs, including shelter, meals, basic hygiene kits and clothing, were met in the months prior to today’s return.”

IOM Myanmar Chief of Mission Kieran Gorman-Best added: “Strong collaboration between anti-trafficking partners in Myanmar and Indonesia were decisive in this case. IOM extends its thanks to its Indonesian counterparts, Myanmar’s ATIPD and the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta for their response which led to these men being reunited with their loved ones.”

IOM is currently implementing a counter trafficking programme funded by the US State Department in Indonesia, while the Australian-funded Regional Cooperation Arrangement programme covers the cost of returning the victims safely to Myanmar.

Meanwhile, in Myanmar, IOM is running a counter-trafficking programme funded by the US State Department. It focuses on technical assistance to the government to strengthen its national victim protection framework. IOM is also the lead organization in Myanmar in providing assistance to trafficked men.

The growing number of men being trafficked in Asia presents an ongoing challenge for IOM and government officials in addressing victims’ needs. It is often difficult for men to acknowledge that they are victims of trafficking and for the authorities to view them as such, which can complicate attempts to assist them. Many shelters and other services for trafficked victims are traditionally designed for women and children, whose needs can be very different from those of men. IOM is currently working in the region to strengthen its response to these challenges.

For more information in Indonesia, please contact

Denis Nihill Email: dnihill@iom.int Tel. +62 811 8890199.

For more information in Myanmar, please contact

Maciej Pieczkowksi Email: mpieczkowski@iom.int Tel. +95 1 210 588 Ext. 5006

Myanmar: Myanmar: Snapshot of Humanitarian Issues (31 July 2014)

22 August 2014 - 1:00am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar preview

Since 2011, more than 247,000 people have been displaced in Myanmar, primarily in Rakhine and Kachin states. In the south eastern part of Myanmar, a large number of people remain displaced following many years of armed conflict. Emergency preparedness is a big challenge as Myanmar is one of the most disaster prone countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Philippines: ECHO Factsheet – East, Southeast Asia and the Pacific – August 2014

21 August 2014 - 7:34am
Source: European Commission Humanitarian Aid department Country: Cambodia, China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam

Key messages

  • The Asia-Pacific region is the most disaster-prone region in the world. The three largest disasters worldwide in the past four years have occurred in East and Southeast Asia.

  • Together with implementing partners, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) carries out rapid assessments of needs and delivers immediate help to those affected by natural and man-made disasters. In the period 2013-2014, the Commission allocated more than € 90.69 million in humanitarian funding to the region.

  • Strengthening the resilience of communities affected by natural disasters is a key priority for ECHO. Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) measures into humanitarian assistance helps to achieve this objective. In 2013-2014, € 14 million has been allocated to DRR projects in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region.

Read the full factsheet

Myanmar: New homes ready for displaced Meikhtila villagers

21 August 2014 - 2:57am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By SHWE AUNG

Around 1,500 people displaced by communal violence in central Burma’s Meikhtila have been awarded homes in a newly built housing complex, according to a project official.

Khin Nan, supervisor of the government-backed housing project, said that 350 new one-story homes in Chanayethar ward have already been allocated to displaced families, awarded by lottery on 19 August.

“Of the 350 homes, 250 are complete and ready for move-in. For the other 100 houses, residents will have the choice of moving in now or waiting until construction is complete,” he said.

Upon completion, each house will have two water tanks, solar panels, an electric meter box and electrical wire connections. Each household is granted a 30×40 ft plot of land.

The project is part of an ongoing effort to resettle the thousands of mostly Muslim residents who have been living in one of five displacement camps since riots broke out in the city in March 2013.

More than 10,000 people were initially displaced after Buddhist mobs ransacked a Muslim neighbourhood following a quarrel in a gold shop. Dozens were killed in the violence, and reports have suggested that authorities stood idly by as 20 Muslim students were massacred.

Khin Nan said that about 2,000 people now remain in two displacement camps. Construction is underway for a 171-unit apartment complex to accommodate the remaining refugees, which is due for completion in December.

The project implementation experienced some setbacks last year as many refugees, most of whom were farmers before the riots, opposed being relocated to an urban apartment complex. Recipients of the new houses, however, say they are satisfied with the arrangement.

Myanmar: Leprosy: Myanmar struggles with ancient scourge

20 August 2014 - 11:19pm
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

08/21/2014 03:03 GMT

by Kelly MACNAMARA

MAWLAMYAING, August 21, 2014 (AFP) - High in the hills of Myanmar's war-torn borderlands, a clutch of new leprosy cases among communities virtually cut off from medical help is a sign that the country's battle with the ancient disease is far from over.

It took six days by plane, boat, motorcycle, bus -- and an arduous mountain trek -- for a group of medical workers to treat two leprosy patients in a remote corner of the country, where conflict and neglect are the legacy of decades of military rule and even access to basic medicines is a distant dream.

But the charity-funded medics were also on the lookout for evidence that the disease had spread.

They soon found three more leprosy sufferers, including one man who had such a severe case he required hospital care.

"I promised him that I would come back for him or I would send someone to pick him up," said Doctor Saw Hsar Mu Lar, after the May expedition, as he returned to his hospital in Mawlamyaing, Mon state -- one of only two specialising in leprosy in Myanmar.

Weeks later the patient was still waiting to travel as tensions between the Myanmar army and local rebels closed transportation routes.

Myanmar reached so-called 'elimination' status for leprosy in 2003 -- meaning less than one person per 10,000 has the illness.

But there are still around 3,000 new cases found each year and medical workers warn that the debilitating disease could be on the rise once more as the country's creaking healthcare system fails to reach those at risk.

Decades of civil war in ethnic regions have also left vast swathes of its border areas cut off from all but the most basic medical help, meaning the disease could be passing undetected.

"There can be pocket areas, hidden areas," Saw Hsar Mu Lar told AFP.

"We have to tell the world that it's not finished yet."

A curable curse

Leprosy is one of the world's oldest -- and most feared -- diseases.

The bacteria affects the skin and deadens the nerves, meaning sufferers are prone to injure themselves, which results in ulcers and can lead to limb loss. Symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear.

It is not particularly infectious, passing only through close contact over long periods, and modern medicine is able to cure patients relatively quickly.

But Myanmar has one of the world's least developed medical systems, with government funding consistently among the lowest of any country, even with recent increases under a post-junta semi-civilian government.

State health workers are technically in charge of outreach and aid groups are banned from conducting leprosy awareness campaigns or looking for new patients -- although they can treat people they find through dermatology clinics and during follow-up field trips.

The respected local aid group that organised the border expedition asked AFP not to give specific details of their work fearing that it could jeopardise future missions.

Saw Hsar Mu Lar's Mawlamyaing Christian Leprosy Hospital, with its bright, simple wards, trained staff and plentiful supply of drugs, is a medical haven -- funded mainly by international donations.

Most of the patients AFP met were farmers or had turned to begging to make ends meet.

"We had no medicine at our village even though we had a clinic," said 40-year-old Mu Hai, who had travelled from western Rakhine state for treatment.

The hospital's matron, Ni Ni Thein, is worried. In 2011 they saw 58 new leprosy cases, but that rose to 62 in 2012 and 68 last year.

"Now cases are increasing... the complication rate is increasing," she said, adding that the age range for the disease had also appeared to have widened, with one four-year-old treated this year.

The fight to stop leprosy has been a major international success, with around 16 million people cured by multi-drug therapy (MDT) medicine in the last two decades.

But experts warn against complacency.

Myanmar is one of 18 countries that together account for almost all new cases of the disease.

The number of new cases it finds annually is dwarfed by its populous neighbour India, where there were some 127,000 new patients identified in 2011 according to World Health Organisation figures.

But while India managed an over 50 percent reduction between 2004 and 2011, Myanmar struggled to reduce its new incidences by 18 percent.

The WHO's goodwill ambassador on leprosy, Yohei Sasakawa, said stagnation in Myanmar's new case numbers over several years could indicate authorities are not doing enough to root out the disease.

One problem is that the numbers affected seem small compared to other health challenges like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

"It is quite easy to be brought down the priority list," he told AFP during a recent mission to the country.

'He shall dwell alone'

Even if patients are cured, many around the world still fall victim to the stigma that clings to the disease, ending up living in segregated colonies.

Public vilification dates back over two thousand years.

The Bible says of leprosy sufferers: "he is unclean: he shall dwell alone".

Saw Roger was chased out of his village when he started to show signs of leprosy aged 18 in the 1950s.

"I lived only with the animals in the jungle and I was frightened. I used to go into my village under the moonlight and I took rice and fish paste before going back into the dark forest," the 76-year-old told AFP.

After two years sleeping in the woods, Roger was found by missionaries and taken to the Mawlamyaing hospital.

Roger, whose legs, left hand and eye have been ravaged by the disease, has found sanctuary there ever since.

Passing the time reading and leading the church choir, he said he has found happiness despite a lifetime of travails caused by the illness.

"I can continue to look forward," he added.

klm/apj/dwa

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse

New Zealand: Helping Burmese Refugees Start New Lives in New Zealand

20 August 2014 - 9:51pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar, New Zealand

By KYAW HSU MON / THE IRRAWADDY

Sparsely populated New Zealand could be said to be punching above its wait in terms of Burmese refugee intake. About 2,000 Burmese, largely coming from refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border, now live in the island nation of 4.4 million people.

Annie Coates, an ethnic Karen woman who has lived in the capital Wellington for more than 30 years, is helping those transplants adjust to life in the southern hemisphere, working with the refugee community on health, education and other social issues. In 2009, she received the Prime Minister’s Social Hero Award in recognition of her work.

Formerly with the ChangeMakers Refugee Forum, Coates now works independently, volunteering her time to teach English, assist with job hunting and even babysitting for refugees. The Irrawaddy spoke with Coates in Wellington about her role in supporting the Burmese refugee community in New Zealand.

Question: How do you help Burmese refugees in New Zealand?

Answer: I was working many jobs in the past, when Burmese refugees began coming to New Zealand in the 2000s. At that time, I took leave to help them. I was what’s called a cross-cultural worker. I helped them to rent houses and with health issues, because at that time, there was a language barrier in communicating with Kiwis [New Zealand citizens]. For social support, I helped them by, for example, staying overnight to babysit. I am not actually a qualified social worker, but just serve in a supporting role.

Most of them are young people and they do not have any relatives in New Zealand, so I become automatically their mother or grandmother. There are 38 children I have been taking care of here. And also I’m helping to recommend some Burmese who apply for visas to come here who are the wives or husbands of people here.

Q: How many Burmese are there living in New Zealand? Are they all refugees from the Thai-Burma border camps?

A: Almost 2,000 Burmese are living here. Mostly they are living in the biggest city, Auckland. More than half the total Burmese are living there. About 200 live in Wellington, and also Nelson. Most of them grew up on the Thai-Burma border, ethnic Karen and Kayah [Karenni] from Burma. But ethnic Chinese and Rakhine [Arakanese] are coming from Malaysia.

They might be economic refugees who are here to seek jobs. But they come here without a visa as there is a lot of corruption in Malaysia. There are many Burmese who queue in front of the UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] office in Malaysia to get here. If someone is arrested by Malaysian police, the UNHCR issues refugee cards for them, so some are intentionally paying bribes to police to arrest them, so they can easily get refugee cards and come here. There are no official refugee camps in Malaysia, but there are detention facilities holding some Burmese people.

Q: Are you supporting all of them or do you have to be selective, given the number of Burmese refugees coming to New Zealand?

A: I am helping them through social humanitarian activities; there is not a political agenda. I support whoever needs support. I help them using my own money. While I was working in cross-cultural support in refugee services, there were barriers to helping them, like forbidding emotional attachment [to refugees]. That’s why after my contract ended, I decided to independently support Burmese refugees myself.

Q: Can these refugees become New Zealand citizens?

A: They have been granted permanent resident status. After five years, they can apply for citizenship here. After they have been granted citizenship, some people take a chance and move to Australia.

Q: What about job opportunities for Burmese refugees here? Is it easy for them to find employment?

A: There are a lot of job-seeking agencies for them here. After they get to New Zealand, they receive an orientation; they are taught the English language and also undergo a skills assessment. If they provide some information about their background [such as education and work histories] in Malaysia or Thailand, it’s easy to access jobs. But some people still have difficulties getting a job here. The problem is the language barrier, though there are many job vacancies here. Some people get a chance to study here while working at the same time. As long as they’re trying hard, staying here is good for them.

Q: Is it true that some Rohingya refugees are also coming to New Zealand?

A: I have heard about that, but no one here in Wellington. Some have lived on the Thai-Burma border for a long time as refugees. They are registered in the UN list as Karen, but the names on their ID cards are Muslim names. However they can speak the Karen language very well.

Myanmar: ‘Nationwide Ceasefire Will Happen This Year’

20 August 2014 - 9:45pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By MAY KHA/ THE IRRAWADDY

The Burmese government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UWPC) and ethnic rebel groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) met to discuss the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement in Rangoon last week.

The two sides have since announced that they will convene again next month to continue efforts to draft a single-text ceasefire accord that would bring Burma one step closer to national reconciliation after decades of civil war. Following the meeting, The Irrawaddy spoke to Nai Hong Sar, the head of the NCCT, to discuss the current state of peace negotiations and future prospects for a nationwide end to hostilities between government troops and armed ethnic rebel groups.

Question: Some say the peace process has bogged down in recent months. Can you tell me what difficulties negotiators are facing and why progress appears to have slowed?

Answer: Every chapter from the single-text [ceasefire] requires a thorough discussion. It wasn’t very easy to get this far either. I know what the people are saying and I understand why. I want to ask them to be patient. At this point, we don’t have many difficulties left in the process.

Q: What do you think of the government’s peace efforts?

A: It has been great, but the ethnic people have identical points of view, and the government side doesn’t have the same opinions. It is formed of the military, Hluttaw [Parliament] and the government, so yes, I understand there could be different views. However, I have found that the recent meetings have been much improved.

Q:What were some of those differing opinions?

A: For example, the military didn’t want to approve use of the word ‘federal,’ just as they were not fond of wording like ‘equal rights’ and ‘self-determination.’ They didn’t seem to feel like amending these things.

Q: But now the UWPC has accepted the federal framework. Do you mean to say the military is not fully in support of this?

A: We will only know whether they accept this or not at the upcoming meetings.

Q: I’ve heard that some are worrying that the ethnic rebels will declare a revolution once the military has stopped firing. What can you say of such speculation?

A: If we don’t discuss, the shots will continue to be fired. If the meeting goes well, we do not have to fight anymore. It’s already been over 60 years [of conflict]. We are negotiating to cease the fire. We can ensure our word, and the government also needs to give us some guarantee [that it will honor a nationwide ceasefire].

Q: The government says everything is on the table, except anything that might compromise the integrity of the Union. How do ethnic minority groups view the issue?

A: Our ethnic rebel forces haven’t asked for secession, but rather federalism and equality. If we can’t have them, we will need to remain as armed rebel forces. If needed, we will secede. None of the ethnic rebel forces are looking to secede if they can get what they ask for. That’s the truth.

Q: Among the government, military and Hluttaw, which party has been most difficult to negotiate with?

A: Of course, it’s the military. All of them [military representatives] come here along with orders from their commander in chief. Things are a little bit more difficult since they have those orders from their superiors.

Q: Do you think a ceasefire would be durable, given that you’ve just now said it has been hard to negotiate with the military?

A: The Army is one of the three parties discussing it, along with the government and Hluttaw. Because they can’t be divided, I think they will accept this in a very short time.

Q: Then why is there still no response from the military?

A: It’s because they need time. We have a lot of things to go through precisely and thoroughly. What we have discussed so far has been very general.

Q:Do you honestly think that a genuine ceasefire can be achieved?

A: I can say that it will happen this year. But still, we haven’t decided who will join and be the witnesses yet.

Myanmar: Shan IDPs Petition for Army to Vacate Occupied Village

20 August 2014 - 3:28pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

RANGOON— About 300 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Shan State’s Kyaythee Township plan to submit a petition asking the Burmese Army to withdraw from their village, which troops have occupied since clashes with Shan rebels broke out more than one month ago.

Hla Shwe Thein, who is a committee member for the ethnic Shan IDPs in Tar Pha Saung village, told The Irrawaddy that all of those displaced wanted to go back to their homes, but were afraid to return because the military had set up a base there. The signature campaign is urging the Union and state governments to order the army to completely vacate the village.

“We collected around 300 signatures from the refugees. … We will send it to the Shan State government and Union government, and President Thein Sein, and [military commander-in-chief] Min Aung Hlaing,” Hla Shwe Thein told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

He said the villagers did not dare return with the army presence, which now includes defensive bunkers dug since the villagers fled. Troops have taken up residence in the villagers’ homes, he added.

The 300 IDPs have been staying at a Buddhist monastery since shortly after the fighting between the Burmese Army and Shan State Army-North broke out in late June.

Another clash between government troops and the SSA-North rebels took place on Aug. 8, according to local sources, forcing another 40 IDPs to seek refuge at the monastery. Since then conditions in the area have become more stable, leading the villagers to consider returning to their homes—but not while the military remains.

“The Burmese Army told them [the displaced villagers] to come back, but they do not dare to stay together with the army, and therefore they have not returned to their houses,” said Sai Hlaing Khan, who is chairman of the Shan National League for Democracy’s Kyaythee Township branch.

Exacerbating the anxieties of the homeless villagers are concerns that they may not have enough food to eat in the future because their displacement prevented them from planting crops during this year’s rainy season. The villagers hope to return to their homes in time to plant, but the window of opportunity to do so is shrinking.

The Burmese Army and SSA-North have occasionally clashed despite the two sides having signed a ceasefire agreement in January 2012. SSA-North leaders have claimed that the fighting has been due to Burmese Army encroachment in the rebel armed group’s area of control.

Viet Nam: Vietnam, Myanmar test patients for Ebola

20 August 2014 - 2:53am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar, Nigeria, Viet Nam

08/20/2014 09:46 GMT

HANOI, August 20, 2014 (AFP) - Vietnam and Myanmar are testing three patients for the deadly Ebola virus after they arrived in the Southeast Asian nations from Africa while suffering from fever, health officials said.

Two Nigerians were sent to Ho Chi Minh City's Tropical Diseases Hospital for isolation after they arrived in the city by plane, Vietnam's health ministry said, adding that they did not have symptoms other than fever.

Airline passengers sitting next to the pair -- who travelled to Vietnam on Monday from Nigeria via Qatar -- have been advised to monitor their own health.

In Myanmar a 22-year-old local man was taken to hospital in Yangon after arriving at the city's main airport on Tuesday, the Myanmar Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement on its official Facebook page late Tuesday.

It said he is believed to have returned from Guinea, having also travelled to Liberia, two of the countries worst hit by the Ebola outbreak.

Four people who accompanied the man to hospital were also being kept under observation, although they have not shown signs of illness.

"We have to send the samples to India for laboratory testing to see whether it is Ebola or not. The process will take three to four days," Tun Tin, deputy director of the ministry of health, told AFP.

He added that authorities were working closely with the World Health Organisation.

Myanmar, which began emerging from harsh junta rule in 2011, has one of the world's worst funded and poorly equipped healthcare systems, with many people cut off from even basic medical help.

The global death toll from Ebola stands at 1,229, with the bulk of cases in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The medical charity MSF has said the outbreak is moving faster than aid organisations can handle, while the World Health Organisation said the scale of the epidemic had been vastly underestimated.

Vietnam has introduced mandatory temperature checks at its two major international airports in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to try to prevent passengers bringing the deadly virus into the country.

bur/klm/dr/sm