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Myanmar: Myanmar: Peace Monitoring Dashboard: July 2015

31 July 2015 - 8:47am
Source: Myanmar Peace Monitor Country: Myanmar

Myanmar: Myanmar flood toll rises as more torrential rain forecast

31 July 2015 - 4:00am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Friday 7/31/2015 - 07:06 GMT

Major floods have killed at least 27 people across Myanmar and inundated the homes and fields of tens of thousands more, a disaster relief official said Friday, warning of further heavy rains.

Weeks of unrelenting rain has deluged swathes of northern and western Myanmar, trapping people in remote villages and stretching the country's already threadbare rescue capabilities.

Rising waters, flash floods and landslides have destroyed roads, railways, bridges and houses, according to a report in Friday's state-run Global New Light of Myanmar, which warned that a cyclone brewing in the Bay of Bengal was likely to bring further misery to coastal and western regions.

"As of Thursday, 27 people have died around the country and four are missing in the Mandalay region," Chumhre, the director of the Relief and Resettlement Department at the social welfare ministry, told AFP.

Around 150,000 have been displaced or had their livelihoods affected by floods, Chumhre, who goes by one name, added.

Authorities have asked people to move to safer places in the worst-hit areas of Kalay, in northern Sagaing region, and Sittwe, the capital of western Rakhine state, as flights to the city's airport were cancelled.

Rakhine already hosts some 140,000 displaced people, mainly Rohingya Muslims, living in exposed make-shift coastal camps following communal violence three years ago.

A resident from Bumay village on the outskirts of Sittwe said newly-built houses at several nearby displacement camps were flooded after storms on Thursday.

"People had to run for their lives. Some people are now sheltering at schools in Thechaung and Bumay villages," he told AFP, withholding his name.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said more poor weather was forecast.

"More people are likely to be affected by flooding and strong winds over the next few days, in particular in Rakhine State," OCHA said in a statement late Thursday.

The military is working with local aid groups to carry out rescue and relief operations, the UN added.

Kachin in the north and Shan and Karen states in the east have also been badly hit by torrential rain.

hla-klm/apj/pj/ds/as

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt visits displaced people in Myanmar’s Kachin State

31 July 2015 - 1:57am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Myanmar

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt travelled to Myitkyina township in Kachin State on Thursday, where over 100,000 people have been displaced since a cease-fire agreement between the Myanmar armed forces and ethnic armed groups broke down in 2011.

She spoke with displaced families and heard about challenges related to access to basic services, particularly health care. A 90-year-old woman described how she has been displaced for most of her life, approximately 10 times since the 1960s, and most recently in 2012.

Jolie Pitt also spoke with a family who had just arrived after fleeing Sumprabum township in northern Kachin State and spending 10 days in the forest. “We have relatives and friends who are still stranded in the forest. They need help urgently,” the head of the family said.

Jolie Pitt stressed the importance of humanitarian access to assist the displaced families. No local or international humanitarian actors have been able to access this conflict area since clashes started in late June this year.

“Women and girls need to have a meaningful and active role in the peace process,” said the Special Envoy. “With cease-fire talks and the upcoming elections, it’s essential that all of Myanmar’s people, including those displaced, can be engaged in decisions that affect their future.”

Media contact:

Vivian Tan, +95 94500 65968

Kasita Rochanakorn, +95 94480 27892

Myanmar: Overview of Flood Inundated Area in Sagaing, 24.07.2015

31 July 2015 - 12:06am
Source: Myanmar Information Management Unit Country: Myanmar

Myanmar: Tornado destroys more than 30 households in Myanaung Tsp

30 July 2015 - 11:07pm
Source: New Light of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

Myanaung, 30 July — A tornado damaged more than 30 households Wednesday including one religious building worth K23.5 million in Ayeyawady Region, village-tract Administrator U Zaw Moe reported.
The tornado hit Nandawgyun Village in Maekhinchaung Village-tract in Myanaung Township of the region around 1:45 pm and lasted roughly five minutes.
There are 87 households in the village, with residents also facing flooding from the Ayeyawady River. Evacuees are being accommodated at a relief camp in the compound of the basic education school in the village.

Nay Win Zaw (Myanaung)

Myanmar: Flash flood causes damage to farmlands

30 July 2015 - 11:05pm
Source: New Light of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

Nay Pyi Taw, 30 July—Flooding caused by heavy rains in June and July caused damage to farmlands across the nation, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation.
Among 395,656 acres of inundated farmlands, flash flood placed 116,500 acres of farmlands under water and caused damage to 23,102 acres in Sagaing Region.—MNA

Myanmar: KBZ Bank donates cash for flood victims

30 July 2015 - 11:03pm
Source: New Light of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

Nay Pyi Taw, 30 July — Kanbawza Bank Ltd donated K150 million for flood victims across the country Wednesday to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Yangon. On behalf of KBZ Bank Chairman U Aung Ko Win, Senior Executive Director U Nyo Myint and Executive Director U Aung Kyaw Myo presented the cash donation to UMFCCI President U Win Aung.
Recently, Kanbawza Bank Ltd donated K200 million for flood victims in Kawlin, Wuntho, Kanbalu,
Kyunhla, Chatthin, Budalin and Mogaung and K380 million to the Wailukyaw Foundation, which is providing relief for victims.

MNA

Myanmar: UNICEF supports mine risk education in Burma/Myanmar

30 July 2015 - 1:58pm
Source: DanChurchAid Country: Myanmar

UNICEF has granted 106,983 USD to facilitate the Mine Risk Education (MRE) work of DCA in Myanmar, which seeks to educate the local population about the threats related to landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), and to increase the number of local organizations being able to mitigate the landmine threat in their daily work.

Decades of conflict between government forces and non-state armed groups continues to have a direct and damaging impact on the population of Myanmar, since large areas of the country, especially along the border to Thailand, has been contaminated with landmines and ERW.

Today, almost 200,000 people are living in communities at risk of accidents from landmine and ERW; with up to 100,000 being children, but the Union of Myanmar has yet to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to provide MRE for the local population in Myanmar in order to avoid future accidents.

The grant from UNICEF allows DCA to continue supporting the development of a government approved Mine Risk Education toolkit, which will be utilized across the Mine Action sector in Burma/Myanmar.

Previous cooperation between UNICEF and DCA includes the conduct of a large Knowledge Attitude and Practice Survey, mapping risk behaviours and perceptions in the local population towards landmines and other ERW. Findings from this study is directly informing the design of the MRE toolkit.

Furthermore, with the grant from UNICEF, DCA seeks to increase the number of local organizations being able to mitigate the threat of landmines and ERW in their daily work.

Finally, as part of the new cooperation with UNICEF, DCA will study how to further expand the existing MRE toolkit by including communication forms such as video and radio in MRE delivery.

The project starts the 1st of July 2015 and has a duration of six months.

Greece: Migrants suffer in a Greece struggling to cope with economic crisis

30 July 2015 - 1:53pm
Source: Caritas Country: Afghanistan, Eritrea, Greece, Iraq, Myanmar, Syrian Arab Republic, World

By Alain Rodriguez, Caritas Europa

Wars, conflicts and persecution worldwide are pushing millions of people to take to the road with the hope of finding a better life somewhere else. They come to Europe from Eritrea, Iraq, Syria, Burma, Afghanistan and many other places where life is more about survival than anything else.

Show your solidarity with Greece

Tens of thousands of migrants and refugees keep arriving to the Greek islands of Kos, Lesvos and Chios. Struggling with a worsening economic crisis the Greek authorities can’t offer them adequate access to shelter and health. As a result, people are setting up improvised camps in parks and other public spaces with nothing more to do than wait and dream of a better future.

Amir* is 35 year old and fled Syria after he received pressure to join the military. He escaped the country and says, “I walked over 1200km. I walked to Turkey and then to the coast where I joined a group of 14 people on a small boat to cross over to this island.”

According to the latest UNHCR Global Trends report, the world is witnessing a strong escalation in the number of people forced to flee their homes. In 2014, 59.5 million people were forced to leave their homes. They were 51.2 million a year earlier and 37,5 million ten years ago. Compared to 2013 this increase has been the highest ever recorded in a single year.

Many of them, like Amir, are arriving in Greece, a country whose economy is devastated and which has recently been obliged by the Eurozone members to go further down the path of austerity. This happened despite widespread opposition against these measures and many warnings from international organisations, including Caritas Europa, that austerity offers no solution and will just worsen the situation.

“The situation here is very bad. Greeks are so badly hit by the crisis that they are completely overwhelmed by their own problems and cannot cope with helping others,” says Maristella Tsamatropoulou, communications officer at Caritas Europa. “This applies to the state too. There are no resources, neither economic nor human, to offer any institutionalised, organised help to migrants and asylum seekers. Migrants and refugees are left to their own devices and just receive a little help from some concerned citizens and NGOs.”

Caritas in Athens has a refugee centre where there’s a soup kitchen and where migrants and refugees can seek material, language classes, psychological and legal help. A programme is planned for September which will give support to migrants on the islands of Chios, Lesvos and Kos.

More than 70,000 refugees have arrived in Greece in 2015. The Deputy Minister of Immigration, Tasia Christodoulopoulou, estimates that by the end of the year the number of refugees in Greece will reach up to 100,000. Maristella has witnessed the arrival of hundreds of people in a couple of days in the island of Kos. Along with Chios and Lesvos, Kos is one of the Greek islands where most migrants and refugees are arriving. Over 10,000 of them have arrived to Kos this year.

“The migrants arrive, go to the police to get identified and wait where they can,” said Maristella. The identification process is necessary for migrants and refugees to be allowed to travel further to Athens from where they potentially can get to any other country on the continent. This process takes at least 10 days.

Amir says, “I have been here for 10 days or so. I am waiting for the police to finalise the process of identifying me and give me the papers I need to move to Athens. From there, I want to continue to Germany or Sweden.”

In the Meantime, he stays in an abandoned hotel with other refugees and migrants. They live in poor hygienic conditions with no electricity and no security. “It’s hard here. But I have very little money and have to spend it wisely. I still don’t know what will happen next so I have to be cautious,” says Amir. “I had a good life in Syria, before the war. I was working in a hospital as a medical assistant. I had a good salary. Wonderful friends and my family. Now I have nothing left.”

*Name changed to protect identity

Bangladesh: Bangladesh, India, Myanmar/Burma - Tropical Cyclone KOMEN (TWO) (ECHO, GDACS, JTWC, CDMP, DMIC, DMH, WMO, Local Media)(ECHO Daily Flash of 30 July 2015)

30 July 2015 - 11:19am
Source: European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office Country: Bangladesh, India, Myanmar
  • The tropical depression TWO has turned into Cyclone Storm “KOMEN” over the north-east Bay of Bengal. On 30 July, it had maximum sustained wind speed between 62 and 88 km/h and it is forecast to move east-north-east and make landfall over Chittagong coast at around noon today, then turn north-west and move inland over Barisal and Khulna Divisions, weakening.

  • Maritime ports of Chittagong and Cox’s have been advised to keep hoisted (danger signal number 7). The low-lying areas of the coastal districts (15 districts from Cox’s Bazaar in Southeast to Satkhira in Southwest) and the offshore islands are likely to experience wind speed up to 70 – 90 km/h and to be inundated above the normal tide level.

  • Authorities have adopted the following measures: preparation of cyclone shelters; early warning messages and evacuation towards safer places; suspension of sea traffic in the area. The Armed Forces and the Fire Service and Civil Defense are on alert mode.

  • ECHO has called for an urgent meeting of the Humanitarian Coordination Task Team at Dhaka level.

  • The Tropical Cyclone is expected to influence with heavy rainfall also east and north-eastern India, most notably the States of West Bengal and Odisha, as well as the coastal Regions of Myanmar/Burma, from Rakhine State to Tanintharyi Region.

World: The Market Monitor - Trends and impacts of staple food prices in vulnerable countries, Issue 28 - July 2015

30 July 2015 - 11:02am
Source: World Food Programme Country: Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam, World, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Highlights

· FAO’s global cereal price index continued to fall in Q2-2015, down 19 percent year-on-year.

· The real price of wheat dropped a further 9 percent over the last quarter. Prices are 33 percent lower than in Q2-2014, thanks to increased global supply and lower consumption.

· The real price of maize has fallen by 3 percent since Q1-2015 and is 21 percent lower than inQ2-2014. However, global production for 2015/16 is set to be lower and thus prices are likely to rise.

· The real price of rice has dropped 10 percent since Q1-2015 and is 8 percent lower than last year. Global rice production for 2015/16 is expected to be higher than last year.

· If the negative El Niño predictions hold true on a wide scale, international food prices as well as domestic prices in the affected countries are expected to rise.

· In Q2-2015, the real price of crude oil rose by 15 percent compared to Q1-2015 but prices are still 43 percent lower than during the same period in 2014.

· The cost of the minimum food basket increased severely (>10%) during Q2-2015 in eight countries: Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia. High increases (5–10%) were seen in Burundi, CAR, Chad, Colombia, Lebanon and Sierra Leone. In the other 55 monitored countries, the change was low or moderate (<5%).

· Price spikes, as monitored by ALPS (Alert for Price Spikes), are evident in Chad, India, Ghana, Malawi, South Sudan, Sudan, Yemen and Zambia. These spikes indicate crisis levels for at least one of the two most important staples in the country, whether they are cassava meal, maize, millet, rice, wheat or sorghum.

Myanmar: The 2015 Rainfall Season: East Asia (July 2015)

30 July 2015 - 10:54am
Source: World Food Programme Country: Afghanistan, China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Viet Nam

Highlights

· The growing season of May-October 2015 in east Asia is unfolding under an evolving El Nino event that will peak in late 2015.

· Below average rainfall has been the dominant feature of the 2015 season across East Asia, particularly from Myanmar across to southern Vietnam, where noticeable delays in the onset of the agricultural growing season have already been detected.

· After a timely and wetter than average start of the monsoon season, India has been affected by rainfall deficits from late June onwards. Stronger impacts are so far being felt in the western half of the country.

· Drier than average conditions and poor vegetation cover are also affecting the Korean peninsula and northeast China. In DPRK, this adds to the effects of a significantly drier than average season in 2014.

· In contrast, Afghanistan and Pakistan have so far enjoyed a favourable rainfall season, with high rainfall in the Pakistani highlands ensuring adequate irrigation.

· Seasonal forecasts indicate drier than average conditions for the August-October rainfall in India and southeast Asia.

· Much drier than average conditions are forecast for Indonesia, potentially leading to negative impacts on the main agricultural season starting in late 2015.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Flood Affected Areas (30 July 2015)

30 July 2015 - 10:50am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

Update on recent flood affected areas According to figures from the Government’s Relief and Resettlement Department (RRD) and figures from local authorities in areas visited by recent inter-agency assessment missions, between 67,000 and 110,000 people were severely affected by recent floods throughout the country, particularly in the Sagaing region, and Kachin and Shan states. According to RRD, 21 people died in July as a result of the floods. Local authorities, the Union Government, the military, as well as the Myanmar Red Cross Society and local civil society organizations are responding to the situation, carrying out rescue operations and providing food, water, blankets, medical and other basic necessities to those affected.

The UN and INGOs are also providing assistance in some areas, as requested by the government.
WFP has dispatched food stocks for 10,880 people and will start distributions of a one month food ration and High Energy Biscuits early next week in Kawlin and Kanbalu townships in Sagaing. Water purification tablets have also been provided by the UN and INGOs in Sagaing but more may be needed. Food, medical supplies, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as non food items are also being provided in Kachin State.

Further assessment missions are planned in Rakhine, as soon as weather conditions permit.
The Myanmar Department of Meteorology and Hydrology is forecasting further heavy rains and strong winds in the coming days in Sagaing, Mandalay, Magway, Bago, Yangon and Ayeyarwady regions, and in Shan, Chin, Rakhine, Kayin and Mon states. The situation therefore remains dynamic and more people are likely to be affected by flooding and strong winds over the next few days, in particular in Rakhine State.

World: Día Mundial contra la Trata de Personas: Trabajar por su erradicación y acompañar a las víctimas, apuesta de Cáritas ante este "crimen contra la Humanidad"

30 July 2015 - 8:02am
Source: Caritas Country: Armenia, Costa Rica, Mozambique, Myanmar, Thailand, World

Cáritas. 30 de julio de 2015.- Ante le celebración, hoy 30 de julio, del Día Mundial contra la Trata de Personas, Cáritas Española llama la atención sobre la violación de derechos humanos que para millones de personas en todo el mundo supone esta denigrante forma de esclavitud moderna, que se estima que es el segundo negocio ilegal más lucrativo a nivel mundial.

En esta jornada es necesario recordar las palabras del Papa Francisco en 2013 a propósito de la trata de personas, a la que califica como “un crimen contra la humanidad”, ante el que invita a “unir las fuerzas para liberar a las víctimas y para detener este crimen cada vez más agresivo, que amenaza, además de las personas, los valores fundamentales de la sociedad y también la seguridad y la justicia internacionales, además de la economía, el tejido familiar y la vida social misma”.

Pobreza y violencia, caldos de cultivo parta la trata

La red Cáritas es testigo en todo el mundo de cómo la falta de oportunidades y de un futuro digno, la pobreza crónica, la persecución, la marginación o la guerra son el caldo de cultivo para que las personas decidan migrar o escapar a otros países, buscando un futuro mejor y menos incierto.

En esa búsqueda y dado que los canales legales de migración escasean, son caros y difíciles, las personas recurren, en su desesperación, a vías alternativas de salida que, en ocasiones, son redes de tráfico de personas. De forma involuntaria, el migrante entra en una red de trata, lo que significa ser vendido para ser explotado laboral o sexualmente, casado contra su voluntad o, en los casos más extremos, objeto de trafico con sus órganos vitales. En muchas ocasiones, la captación tiene lugar mediante la promesa de un contrato legal de trabajo, que acaba siendo falso; en otras, el empleador confisca el pasaporte y los documentos legales del trabajador, lo que impide su movilidad.
Todos estos supuestos son ejemplos dramáticos de lo que se define como “trata de personas”.

De Armenia a Costa Rica

Cáritas Española apoya en países como Armenia, Tailandia, Myanmar, Mozambique y Costa Rica, diversos proyectos de sus respectivas Cáritas nacionales para acoger y acompañar a las víctimas de esta práctica execrable.

Cáritas Armenia, por ejemplo, lleva a cabo en las comunidades rurales y las zonas de frontera campañas de sensibilización sobre migración y trata mediante la construcción de alianzas sólidas con los grupos de la sociedad civil. Armenia es un país emisor de migrantes, en especial de mujeres víctimas de trata hacia diferentes países de la Unión Europea y, sobre todo, a los Emiratos Árabes.

En Myanmar (la antigua Birmania), un proyecto de Cáritas que se desarrolla en diversas diócesis del país se centra en la prevención del problema, promoviendo --sobre todo entre la población más joven-- el uso de canales de migración segura para quienes deciden salir del país y alertando sobre aquellas vías de salida irregular que conllevan mayor riesgo de caer en redes de trata. El destino preferido para la migración laboral en Birmania es la vecina Tailandia, aunque la trata de mujeres se dirige sobre todo hacia con China e India.

En la diócesis tailandesa de Surat Thani, al otro lado de la frontera con Myannmar, Cáritas desarrolla un programa basado en las denominadas cuatro “P”: prevención, persecución, protección y partenariado. El actual Gobierno tailandés está especialmente interesado en regularizar la situación de los migrantes y en cercenar el negocio del tráfico de personas, por lo que este proyecto pretende reforzar los controles legales mediante la colaboración de todas las partes involucradas. Para ello, la asistencia legal a los inmigrantes y las victimas de trata se complementa con la colaboración de abogados a ambos lados de la frontera.

8Formación y prevención en Mozambique y Costa Rica*

En Mozambique, la actuación de Cáritas ante el drama de la trata se desarrolla en varios frentes, que abarcan desde proyectos de formación y prevención en las comunidades para que conozcan en toda su dimensión el problema, puedan actuar ante los posibles captadores y sean capaces de denunciar ante las autoridades la desaparición de alguna persona; hasta la formación y sensibilizar de las autoridades locales para que las leyes contra el tráfico y la trata de personas se apliquen con la máxima contundencia.

En este país africano, el destino principal de las víctimas de las redes de trata es la explotación sexual y laboral en la vecina África del Sur, junto a la extracción de órganos para su venta a países extranjeros que los demandan.

Cáritas Costa Rica aborda el problema de la trata bajo un enfoque global de violación de los derechos humanos en los ámbitos de migración y refugio, y orientado a la búsqueda de soluciones estructurales. En este marco se desarrolla desde 2013 el proyecto “Construcción de paz, equidad y tolerancia”, que apoya Cáritas Española. Su principal objetivo es capacitar en la prevención de la violencia a 200 agentes sociales que, una vez formados, realizarán actividades de sensibilización en el respeto a los derechos humanos y de prevención y denuncia de la trata de personas.

Este proyecto, que se lleva a cabo la archidiócesis de San José y las diócesis de Puntarenas, Tilarán-Liberia, Ciudad Quesada y Limón, busca también que los grupos más vulnerables sean protagonistas de su propio desarrollo e incrementen su capacidad de respuesta ante las distintas formas de violencia.

Acción global a través de COATNET

En este marco global de trabajo contra la trata de personas, Cáritas Española participa en COATNET (Christian Organizations Against Trafficking in Human Beings), la Red de Organizaciones Cristianas contra el Tráfico de Seres Humanos, que celebró el año pasado en Madrid su reunión bienal. Esta cita sirvió para debatir las estrategias sobre cómo fomentar las capacidades operativas de las organizaciones participantes a la hora de identificar casos de trata de personas para servidumbre doméstica, así como acordar un plan conjunto de trabajo para el período 2014-2015.

Además, en ese encuentro se presentó la “GUÍA DIDÁCTICA SOBRE LA TRATA DE MUJERES Y NIÑAS CON FINES DE EXPLOTACIÓN SEXUAL”, realizada en nuestro país por el Grupo Intereclesial formado por el Secretariado de la Comisión de Migraciones de la Conferencia Episcopal, Cáritas Española, la Fundación Cruz Blanca, Justicia y Paz, y la Conferencia de Religiosos de España (CONFER).

Thailand: UNHCR presents first draft of repatriation plan

30 July 2015 - 3:55am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar, Thailand

By DENE-HERN CHEN

Mae Pa, Thailand – The UN’s refugee agency unveiled a draft plan this week detailing how to carry out the voluntary repatriation of 110,000 refugees residing in Thailand’s camps, drawing mixed reactions from camp leaders.

Thailand currently has more than 110,000 refugees from Burma residing in nine camps along the border. Open for more than 30 years, recent talks of repatriation has sent shockwaves through the camps as refugees remain wary about Burma’s current nominally civilian government. There are still reports of fighting within various parts of Burma, including Karen State, where the majority of the refugees are from.

The draft document, titled “Operations Plan for Voluntary Repatriation,” was presented by Iain Hall, senior coordinator for UNHCR, during a closed-door meeting to roughly 70 camp leadership members on Tuesday, along with relevant NGOs. Held every three months, this meeting is for various stakeholders working on refugee issues along the border to air their concerns and needs.

This plan comes at the heels of a “Strategic Roadmap for Voluntary Repatriation,” released earlier this year, which deals more generally with the principles of the voluntary return of refugees, should they choose to take that step. The Operations Plan presented on Tuesday provided more details to facilitating the return, such as transportation logistics, helping people with specific needs (like children, elderly, and those who are disabled), and ensuring voluntariness among refugees.

Blooming Night Zan, the joint general-secretary of the Karen Refugee Committee (KRC), which oversees camp management in seven of the border camps, said in a terse email that the KRC does not intend to help UNHCR with the operations plan. Her main concerns were that “[the KRC is] not involved or participating in it, and it is not ours,” she said in the email.

Bweh Say, first secretary of KRC, struck a more conciliatory tone. “We do have a little bit of worry because first we talked about the strategic roadmap and now we are moving towards an operations plan,” he said. “But we do trust UNHCR because I think it is important to know where we are going and what is in our future.”

“Our concern is more about how the camp management will figure in the operations plan,” he added, reiterating that KRC’s policy on repatriation is that it should only happen when there is a signed national cease-fire agreement and “genuine peace.”

Luiz Kaypoe, first secretary of the Karenni Refugee Committee (KNRC) – which oversees the two Karenni camps in Mae Hong Son – agreed, though he thinks the plan comes a little too soon.

“At the same time, they are following the plans of both governments – the Thai and the Burmese – because after the election, if something happens and the refugees are given the green light to return, [the UNHCR] would like to catch up on that,” he said, referring to the Burma’s national poll scheduled for 8 November.

“For us, we are not very sure about the strategy yet, but when they present the plan it’s a little bit concerning for us,” he added. “We don’t want them to push the refugees.”

Hall, the UNHCR senior coordinator who presented on Tuesday, explained that this came about because the UNHCR has had specific questions in recent months on what should be done if a refugee were to decide to voluntarily return. He declined to provide the specifics, saying that it is only the first draft.

“We’ve been saying for the last two or three years it’s too early to do planning, but in the last six months, people have been talking more and more and we’ve had specific requests, so we said ‘Let’s start planning’,” he said. “UNHCR made very clear yesterday that if refugees don’t feel comfortable about the planning, then we will stop.”

Hall added that just because there is a draft plan does not mean that repatriation is imminent. “Even if we complete the document in the next six months, they might not go home for the next six years,” he said.

“We don’t know — it doesn’t depend on our plans; it depends on peace and politics, and there’s no peace,” Hall said. “But if there is peace, and politics sort itself out, we will need to be ready if the refugees start to decide when to go home.”

Patrick Kearns, the chair of the Committee for Coordination of Services to Displaced Persons in Thailand (CCSDPT) – a joint organization made up of 19 NGOs working on camp issues – said that the general consensus among the camp leadership, the UNHCR, and NGOs is that the time now is not appropriate to consider a large-scale return. That being said, Kearns believes that it is important to begin planning should refugees choose to return on their own.

“The consistent message is nobody is in a hurry to have a finished document,” he said. “But there is a necessity now to start to address these questions to begin looking at what the needs are.”

Dene-Hern Chen is a freelance journalist based in Phnom Penh. She previously worked for DVB in 2014.

Myanmar: The unfinished agenda of reaching universal health coverage in Myanmar

30 July 2015 - 3:27am
Source: UN Population Fund Country: Myanmar

On July 28 and 29 around 700 national and international participants gathered in Myanmar's capital Nay Pyi Taw to take stock, reflect and plan further action to achieve Myanmar's "Health Vision 2030". The ambitious goals of this vision is to reach universal health coverage in the next 15 years. The Health Forum Myanmar, led by the Ministry of Health, was the first of its kind in Myanmar and brought together all State and Region health ministers, as well as municipal authorities, other ministries, civil society, health workers' associations, academics and development partners.

UNFPA participated in this historical event in multiple ways. A parallel session was moderated by Janet Jackson, Representative of the UNFPA Country Office, on bringing health services to the people and addressing the unfinished health agenda. The brief presentations of the panelists, eminent speakers from the government, health professionals, academia and CSO sectors stimulated the thoughts of the participants. Dr. Kyaw Zin Thant, Director General of the Department of Medical Research of the Ministry of Health, provided a bold kick-off calling for changes in mindsets and harmonisation and more concerted support for citizen engagement. Professor Mya Thida, President of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society, called for more task shifting and skills building for midwives and the need for reporting on health data and reviews into maternal and infant mortality which remain high. Professor Richard Coker, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, stated that better data collection and increased sharing of data are of vital importance to better address challenges around multi drug-resistant communicable diseases such as TB. In the unfinished agenda, it are ethical and political decisions which in the end determine who access health care and who does not, he stated. Dr. Sid Naing, Country Director of Marie Stopes International, Myanmar, warned that the current developments in the provider market can result in communities being at the mercy of the market and that measures need to be taken to ensure that healthcare is at the mercy of the people. Finally, Professor Ne Win, President of the Myanmar Academy of Medical Science, bringing it all together emphasised the importance of Myanmar-specific researchers and specialists in communicable diseases and the urgency for upgrading skills - skills for knowledge generation and not simply skills for knowledge transfer.

A lively question and answer session followed the presentations in which important factors of the unfinished agenda were highlighted, such as the risk of leaving certain groups behind, including people in remote areas, poor people living in city slums, youth in general, and sex workers in particular. The role of midwifes and the importance to build their strengths in terms of numbers and capacities as well as increasing their competences was emphasized.

UNFPA took the opportunity of the Health Forum to interact with many of the participants and to raise awareness through its booth in the communal space of the conference. A ‘Wheel of Knowledge' allowed visitors to the booth to test their expertise and increase their knowledge on issues around sexual and reproductive health as well as the census. The ‘Wheel of Knowledge' attracted a lot of attention, which may also have been stimulated by the prizes to be won.

The Myanmar Health Forum was the first of its kind in the country and was successfully brought to an end while informing and inspiring many and contributing to the networks of those who are working to improve healthcare in Myanmar. However, as Janet Jackson remarked at the end of the panel session: "This maybe the first Health Forum, but it will take much more time and effort and likely many more Health Forums to achieve the goals of the unfinished health agenda."

Myanmar: Breaking: Cyclone warning issued in western Burma

30 July 2015 - 3:15am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

Cyclone Komen is expected to cross Chittagong, Bangladesh, into northwestern Burma on Thursday evening, bringing with it wind speeds of up to 80 miles per hour and torrential rain.

After suffering severe flooding and landslides across Burma earlier in the week, the Meteorology and Hydrology Department on 30 July issued a warning for further heavy rainfall, strong winds, and flash floods for most of the country.

As of 10.30am Burmese time, the orange-alert cyclone was centred in the sea 50 miles east of Chittagong and 85 miles northwest of Maungdaw, Arakan State. Komen was reported to be carrying a wind speed of 50mph and air pressure of 968hPa.

Storm surges are also likely to occur during the storm, and are estimated to reach between 8– 10 feet high in Maungdaw and 6– 8 feet in Sittwe.

Areas likely to be affected by the cyclone are Sagaing, Mandalay, Magwe, Rangoon, Irrawaddy and Bago regions, as well as Shan, Chin, Arakan, Karen and Mon states.

The Myanmar Fisheries Federation (MFF) urged agricultural businesses to “prepare for disaster” on Thursday.

According to state media, the primary concern for the MFF is the disruptions to fish farms in the country’s south, while government departments have advised offshore fishing vessels to remain at shore.

The Global New Light of Myanmar on Thursday reported that no damage to fish farms have been reported yet, but farmers across the country have been warned that flood waters brought by Komen have the potential for great losses.

Myanmar: Rescue teams scramble as rains lash Burma

30 July 2015 - 3:04am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

Video: Rescue teams scramble as rains flood Burma

In the central Burmese township of Kawlin, volunteers are working around the clock to save villagers from swelling floodwaters.

The village tract has been one of the hardest hit, as rain continues to pound flood-drenched Burma.

Twenty have been killed across the country, according to the Burmese government’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

In Kawlin, those who cannot walk are stretchered away from a town where 3,000 are now homeless, after close to 2,000 homes were destroyed.

One farmer described losing his entire rice harvest as well as his freshly planted crop, as 8-foot deep water forced him to relocate his family and livestock.

“I was evacuated to Kawlin after the water level in my village reached knee height. I lost my belongings and my rice paddies in the floods,” said farmer Bo Aye.

An emergency relief shelter has been opened at the Dakhinarama Buddhist monastery in Kawlin town. The place of worship now home for some of the 8,600 flood victims from Kawlin and nearby villages.

Kawlin Township Development Committee has coordinated the emergency efforts.

Monsoonal rains have drenched Chin and Arakan states, as well as Mandalay, Pegu and Sagaing divisions.

“The rainfall this year is quite spread out,” said the organisation’s chair, Ne Win.

“In the past, the floods would last only about a day at the longest. Now, there is floodwater blanketing a large stretch of area from here to Kantbalu. Usually overflow from local water ways would flow into the Mu and Thaphanseik creeks but as the whole area is covered in rain.”

One charity worker said the flooding in Sagaing is the worst in living memory.

“Nowadays, we are experiencing floods in highlands that we never had before due to deforestation. They are destroying topsoil and causing erosion and flash floods in the central Burma dry region, which is actually very alarming,” said Nyi Nyi Aung a worker who had travelled from Prome, Pegu Division, to assist relief efforts in Kawlin.

Many agree that man’s impact on the environment has exacerbated the flood danger.

Abbot Kawidaza too travelled to Kawlin, from his Nyeinmya Yadana monastery in Mandalay.

“Authorities said local reservoirs had to be opened up as the volume of water became too much to hold – the government built more dams than they can maintain, which has caused these floods. This wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t been full,” he told DVB.

At this stage, there is still no sign that a much hoped-for rainbow may be on the way.

Low pressure systems over the Bay of Bengal are likely to trigger heavy rains across western and into central Burma. State media in Bangladesh has classified it as a cyclonic storm.

Burma’s meteorological department has announced that floodwaters could rise in the coming 24 hours, meaning locals in Kawlin, and in flood-affected areas across Burma, will have to wait before they get a chance to rebuild their lives.

Myanmar: Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, including 210 foreigners: official

30 July 2015 - 2:39am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Thursday 7/30/2015 - 06:25 GMT

Myanmar on Thursday ordered the release of thousands of prisoners including 210 foreigners, officials said, the latest in a series of amnesties under the reformist government that have seen sentences quashed for hundreds of dissidents.

Authorities acting on the instructions of President Thein Sein ordered some 6,966 detainees -- 210 of them foreigners -- to be freed across the country after they had been "well disciplined", according to a post on the Ministry of Information website.

The release includes 155 Chinese nationals handed long jail sentences earlier this month for illegal logging in northern Myanmar, near the countries' shared border, according to a home affairs ministry official who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak to the press.

"More than 150 Chinese will be released in the amnesty," he said without giving further details.

A second official from the corrections department also confirmed that Chinese nationals would be released.

The decision to jail the loggers sparked outraged editorials in Chinese state media, as well as a plea by Beijing to be "reasonable".

It was not immediately clear if any political prisoners were among those to be freed in the latest amnesty.

hla/klm/pj/as

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

World: Asia - Severe Weather - ECHO Daily Map | 29/07/2015

29 July 2015 - 10:49pm
Source: European Commission Humanitarian Aid department Country: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand, Viet Nam, World

Situation

Severe weather has caused extensive damage in southern Asian countries over the past couple of weeks.

• In Vietnam, the worst floods of the last 40 years in the province of Quang Ninh caused damage to nearly 3,000 houses. In Lao PDR, river overflow affected over 400 families in 14 villages in the district of Mahaxay. Thailand’s north-west region has experienced flash floods and landslides. Myanmar/Burma has been extensively affected by floods, just like its neighbouring country, Bangladesh.

India’s north-western states have had heavy rainfall over the past few days, resulting in floods and casualties in many districts. The east of the country is also affected by heavy rainfall, also due to the Tropical Cyclone TWO that developed on 28 July.

Pakistan has been reporting floods throughout the country since 20 July, with the death toll increasing every day. Heavy rainfall in northern Afghanistan over the past couple of days has caused serious damage to 700 houses in the province of Jawzjan and caused the death of six people in Badakhshan.

Forecast:

• Northern Vietnam will continue experiencing heavy rainfall and so will parts of eastern and southern Pakistan and south-eastern Afghanistan, as well as western India, over the next 24h.

Tropical Cyclone TWO is forecast to approach the coast of Chittagong division later on 29 July, roughly maintaining its intensity. Heavy rainfall will affect southern Bangladesh, western Myanmar/ Burma and eastern India (West Bengal and Odisha) on 29-31 July.