Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
When bad weather destroys crops, women have limited options - but building community savings groups could help
By Zoe Tabary
MEIKTILA, Myanmar, Nov 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Ma Nwe places a rock the size of a baseball at her feet, then tightens the string holding her bamboo hat in place.
"I can't risk it falling off," she explained, squinting in the sun. "It's only going to get hotter as the day goes on."
She is one of 20 women building a road on the outskirts of Meikhtila, in central Myanmar. But this isn't her main job.
Normally Nwe is a farmer who grows rice and sesame. But this year, "the rains destroyed almost everything two months ago".
Unusually heavy monsoon rains have damaged fields and soil, forcing men to take on seasonal work as miners or builders - often far from home. The burden of maintaining the household, with few resources, falls on women like Nwe, who must look for other sources of income than farming.
"Our soil is so damaged we can't grow anything at the moment," Nwe told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "So I had to look for another job."
Helping communities - and particularly women - face up to increasingly extreme weather is a challenge in many parts of the world. But in Myanmar, some groups are experimenting with savings groups as a way to give women alternatives to hard labour when crops fail.
MORE ROADS, LESS PAY
Myanmar is undergoing a road construction boom, after nearly 50 years of economic mismanagement by a military dictatorship left roads in disarray.
"Construction companies are always looking for new workers," said Nwe. "But the pay is not good, and men earn more than us."
As a road builder she makes about 3,000 kyats per day ($2.30), while men earn 3,500 kyats on average, she added.
"Last year we didn't have enough rain, this year too much," New said, wiping sweat off her face. "It's become impossible to know what to expect."
"Farming allowed me to feed my family, but this job doesn't," she said. "And I'd rather be farming as it's my own business."
According to George Moo, a programme officer at ActionAid Myanmar, a charity that tackles extreme poverty, "women and children are more vulnerable than men to climate change because men have access to more jobs and earn a higher income".
"So when a disaster strikes, women's options are more limited than men's," he added.
To remedy this, ActionAid Myanmar has helped women set up self-help groups in villages surrounding Meiktila.
The groups aim to enable local women to become more economically stable and independent, so they can avoid being forced onto the roads as day labourers.
The project is part of the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme, funded by the British government.
The women meet weekly to make contributions of 1,000 kyats each ($0.75) to the group's savings fund, with the savings used to provide revolving loans to group members at low interest rates.
A managing committee of five women rotates every six months to manage the funds.
"There is already a saving tradition in Myanmar whereby families leave one scoop of rice before they cook to donate to another family later," said Moo.
"We're trying to apply this tradition to women's income - but instead of donating the extra income, you save it for the future."
The profit from interest on the savings is then used to improve local infrastructure, for example by installing community water wells.
Instances of internal displacement caused by conflict, violence and disasters
conflict and violence
Iraq: 68,000 new displacements, 17 October - 23 November
India and Pakistan: At least 33,000 new displacements, 21 October - 6 November
Myanmar: Up to 30,000 new displacements, 9 October - 14 November
Afghanistan: 17,000 returns from Iran and Pakistan, 3 - 16 November
Dominican Republic: 26,000 new displacements, 9 - 16 November
Some Rohingyas trying to flee escalating violence are feared to have drowned after their boat sank in a river on Tuesday
By Mohammad Nurul Islam
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Nov 23 (Reuters) - More Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar poured into neighbouring Bangladesh this week, with some feared drowned after a boat sank in a river during a bid to flee escalating violence that has killed at least 86 and displaced about 30,000 people.
Some Rohingya refugees have been missing since Tuesday after a group crossed the river Naaf that separates Myanmar and Bangladesh. Those who managed to enter Bangladesh sought shelter in refugee camps or people's homes.
"There was a group of people from our village who crossed the river by boat to come here, but suddenly the boat sank," said Humayun Kabir, the father of three children untraceable since the mishap.
Read the full report by Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In October, WFP assisted 170,600 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Kachin, northern Shan and Rakhine States.
WFP is assisting young children from displaced and host families with High Energy Biscuits in Myaing Gyi Ngu area of Kayin State.
WFP is preparing to proceed its flood response with 2,640 people affected by the July-August floods through asset rehabilitation activities in Magway Region.
In 2015, WFP extended its Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO), which was launched in January 2013, until the end of 2017 to harmonise it with the work of the United Nations Country Team. The current PRRO contributes to more equitable development and supports national reconciliation by reducing poverty, food insecurity and undernutrition, responding to disasters and increasing resilience among the most vulnerable. Aligned with Sustainable Development Goals and the Zero Hunger Challenge, the specific objectives of the PRRO are to 1) prepare for and respond to natural disasters and other shocks in support of the Government; 2) assist postdisaster recovery by rehabilitating productive assets to improve household food security and create socioeconomic opportunities for the most vulnerable; 3) address undernutrition among children and pregnant women and nursing mother (PNM), and support at-risk groups such as people living with HIV (PLHIV) and tuberculosis (TB) clients; 4) improve access, enrolment and attendance to primary schools; and 5) improve the sustainability of responses to food insecurity and undernutrition through knowledge-sharing and capacity development.
WFP aims to reach its objectives through five major activities:
Relief – WFP has been providing life-saving food assistance to 280,000 people displaced and/or affected by conflicts, violence and natural disasters. Both in 2015 and 2016, WFP assisted people affected by floods. As of September 2016, WFP has reached 179,520 flood victims with food and cash assistance, in Ayeyarwaddy, Bago, Magway and Mandalay Regions and in Rakhine State.
WFP and FAO co-lead the Food Security Sector (FSS) since 2014, which has been responding to food and/or cash needs of people affected by ethnic conflicts and natural disasters.
Nutrition – Linking with the national health system and in line with the national protection scheme, WFP provides nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive support for 140,000 pregnant women and nursing mothers and malnourished young children.
HIV/TB programme – As balanced nutrition is pivotal for people living with PLHIV or TB clients to keep their immune system strong in order to fight the diseases. WFP provides food-by-prescription to 23,000 PLHIV and TB clients aiming to enhance their adherence and treatement success.
Community Asset Creation – WFP strengthens community resilience by creating community infrastructures and providing 200,000 people with either cash or food in exchange for participating in asset creation activities.
School Feeding - In support of the country’s National Social Protection Strategic Plan and the 2016-2021 National Educational Strategic Plan, WFP and the Ministry of Education have started working towards nationalisation of the school feeding programme from the 2015/16 academic year onwards. WFP aims to feed half a million school children in the 2016/17 academic year.
Furthermore, WFP, in collaboration with the Ministry of Livestock, Fishery and Rural Development, has completed Food Security and Poverty Estimation surveys in 2015 and is developing the country’s first-ever Food Security Atlas, contributing to the advancement of national food security and poverty reduction policies and strategies.
WFP has also supported the Government in establishing nine resource centres across the country, enhancing national capacity of sustainable food security monitoring.
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA (23 November 2016) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $117 million loan to the Governments of Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar and Viet Nam to enhance responses to emerging infectious diseases and the management of other major public health threats. The Lao PDR government is also receiving $8 million in grant assistance.
“Countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), particularly Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam, have grown significantly over the last few years, but their health systems remain underdeveloped to effectively address disease outbreaks,” said Gerard Servais, Senior Health Specialist at ADB’s Southeast Asia Department. “The project will help address weaknesses in these countries’ health systems and promote cross-country cooperation to improve national and international health security.”
These four countries are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of emerging diseases including SARS, bird flu, corona virus, malaria, and dengue due to weak health systems and increased mobility of people and trade across borders. While health service networks within these countries have expanded, access to these services for marginalized, mobile, and poor people remains a challenge.
The project will strengthen public health security mechanisms including surveillance and outbreak response, laboratory quality and biosafety, and health services access. A $21 million loan to Cambodia, for example, will support the Ministry of Health’s efforts to further digitize its disease surveillance system and strengthen outbreak rapid response teams in remote areas. The loan will also equip laboratories and improve infection prevention and control at district hospitals along borders and economic corridors.
The GMS Health Security Project will impact households and communities in 13 provinces in Cambodia, 12 provinces in Lao PDR, 5 states and regions in Myanmar, and 36 provinces in Viet Nam. The project’s total cost is $132.2 million, with the four countries contributing a total of $7.2 million. Estimated project completion date is the first quarter of 2022.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB in December 2016 will mark 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled $27.2 billion, including cofinancing of $10.7 billion.
By Lawi Weng & Saw yan Naing
MUSE, Shan State — At least ten people, both police and civilians, have been killed and 29 more injured in the fighting across northern Shan State that began on Sunday, state media announced.
More than 2,700 Muse Township residents have been displaced from their homes and have taken shelter in four camps in Muse town, a township officer reported.
Since Sunday, a combined force of ethnic armed groups has carried out an offensive against the Burma Army in several Shan State border towns, including Muse, Mong Ko, and Pang Sai. The armed groups include the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA). The ethnic armed groups issued a statement requesting that civilians avoid traveling in the conflict areas in northern Shan State as the fighting escalates.
Multiple new attacks have occurred in the past 24 hours.
On Tuesday, a civilian truck driver was killed on the road between Lashio and Muse when he was caught in a clash between the ethnic armed groups and the Burma Army. The driver was shot in the forehead while sitting in the driver’s seat of his 12-wheel container truck. In a press release from the State Counselor’s Office, the victim was identified as being 42 years old, but his name and address were withheld.
When the incident occurred, Burma Army soldiers were attempting to reopen a blocked roadway and free a convoy of 18 vehicles when they reportedly came under attack. Some abandoned vehicles were destroyed in the fighting that followed, and others had their windows broken. The attack was intended to threaten civilians who use the roadway, the government press release said.
Separately, on Monday night, ethnic armed groups launched an attack against a police station in Muse town, causing serious injuries to one civilian, according to the township authority.
“They came to attack a police station in the town at 7:30 at night,” said U Kyaw Kyaw Tun, the Muse Township officer. “They also attacked nearby areas where there are other small police posts.”
One civilian was shot and has been treated at a hospital in Muse. There were no police casualties from the attack, Kyaw Kyaw Tun said.
After the latest attack, numerous shops, restaurants, stores, banks, schools, and hotels in Muse closed on Tuesday, and rumors spread that another attack could hit the town. Local banks have removed some ATM machines from the area, citing security concerns.
Many civilians have told reporters they are preparing to seek safety across the Chinese border. The news site China Daily reported that more than 3,000 Burmese nationals have already done so, fleeing into China’s Yunnan province. Chinese authorities reportedly provided shelter and medical treatment to those who were injured.
Chinese authorities are keeping the official border gates near Muse open, but they have closed more than 20 unofficial crossing points; they have deployed additional security forces to protect the border in recent days.
Ma Noe, a Muse resident, told The Irrawaddy that she feared another attack on the town.
“We have not seen such a bad situation in the past 24 years in our Muse,” she said. “This is the first time, and it is really bad.”
She added that a lot of border trade and businesses in the town would suffer.
On Sunday, the first attack struck Muse Town at an economic zone called “mile 105,” where four police officers and four civilians were killed. Authorities in Namkham and Muse townships have tightened their security measures and are now inspecting all people who enter the towns.
Two more clashes broke out on Monday between the Burma Army and KIA troops in Nang Pha Lon village and Nang Pha Khar village, both in northern Shan State’s Kutkai Township.
The Federal Republic of Germany has awarded DCA DKK 4,820,000 to help and support Persons With Disabilities (PWD) and others affected by landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) in Myanmar until the end of 2017.
Decades of armed conflict have created a legacy of contamination from landmines, improvised explosive devices, and other ERW in Myanmar.
Although accurate information concerning this landmine/ERW contamination is generally scarce, The Landmine Monitor, a primary source on landmine/ERW contamination in Myanmar, has identified 3,745 mine/ERW casualties (396 killed; 3,145 injured; 204 unknown) between 1999 and 2014.
In 2014 alone, 251 casualties were reported, making Myanmar the 3rd most affected country globally, in terms of landmine casualties. The number is likely higher because war wounded often do not access government health services because of a perceived personal security risk as cases of war injuries must be reported to the police. Making matters worse, several studies show that there is a significant positive correlation between being disabled and poor in Myanmar.
There is therefore a great need for bringing assistance to survivors of landmine/ERW accidents and PWDs. The generous grant from Germany enables DCA to do exactly that.
"This is a timely and important contribution to an area of great need in Myanmar. Victims of landmines and other Persons with Disabilities face innumerable challenges, not least the lack of accessible and consistent medical care, as well as livelihood opportunities“ says Mathew Walsh, DCA Programme Manager in Myanmar. „We will now be able to support local organizations in providing prosthesis and assistive devices to those in need, as well as support their livelihoods and food security.“
The project is being implemented in 2016-17.
The number of newly displaced in northern Rakhine is thought to have doubled to 30,000 since renewed clashes on 11 November. Access continues to be restricted. There are reports of 'clearance operations' by the Myanmar Army, which denies accusations of burning villages, rape, torture, and arbitrary detention. In northern Shan state, more than 5,000 people have been displaced after four armed groups attacked the Myanmar Army.
No hospitals in eastern Aleppo are now functioning after intense airstrikes. Fighting has intensified in the past week around eastern Aleppo, as well as in Homs, Idlib, and Ar Raqqa.
The number of food insecure in Tanganyika province has almost doubled in six months, from 713,000 to more than 1.2 million. 600,000 people are severely food insecure, mainly due to persistent violence and conflict driving displacement.
Updated: 22/11/2016. Next update: 29/11/2016.
International Humanitarian groups have been allowed to enter Rakhine State to deliver aid, according to U Khin Maung Swe, Secretary of Rakhine State Government.
According to the current information, rumors are spreading that residents in the northern part of Maungtaw District are facing difficulties as they have not received international aid.
On November 3rd, officials showed international ambassadors and resident representative of the UN around places where incidents had happened.
U Khin Maung Swe continued said the State Government allowed the World Food Programme (WFP) to enter Maung Taw region beginning November 4th and allowed them to provide necessary assistance. Moreover, UN organizations were permitted to give aid including drinking water, health care and caring to the students.
Armed troops of KIA, TNLA and MNDAA attacked military outposts and police stations in Muse and Kutkai and the Muse 105th mile trade zone on 20th November, causing death and injury.
Due to the incident, aid and health care services are being provided to displaced people including temporary rescue camps, according to the Information committee of the State counsellor’s office.
2,636 displaced people have been evacuated to four monasteries and one Kachin Baptist Church in Muse and rice, purified drinking water, soft drinks, warm clothes and blankets have been provided to them.
The Shan State Government provided 300 bags of rice, 1000 instant noodle packages, and 475 sets of relief items to them. They also presented 500,000 to 1 million kyats for each deceased person and 100,000 kyats to 300,000 kyats for each injured person. Moreover, health care services are available to the evacuees via temporary clinics.
The Report on the Strategic Review of Food Security and Nutrition in Bangladesh was launched this month. The report praises the country’s tremendous gains in becoming overall food self-sufficient and in reducing the proportion of stunted children. It provides strategic recommendations on major actions needed to reduce the remaining high numbers of people that continue to face food-insecurity (estimated to number 40 million people – a quarter of the population).
The pilot phase of the Investment Component Vulnerable Group Development programme, reaching 2,000 women, is nearly complete and the second phase, geared towards an additional 6,000 women, will begin soon.
Through its Country Programme (CP), WFP aims to assist 3.6 million people over five years in 15 prioritised districts. The CP is designed to improve the long-term food security of ultra-poor households and the nutritional conditions of women and children in the poorest and most food-insecure rural areas and urban slums of Bangladesh. It has four components:
Improving Maternal and Child Nutrition (IMCN) aims to break the cycle of undernutrition by treating and preventing moderate acute malnutrition among pregnant and nursing women and children below five in especially vulnerable areas. WFP is also engaging in advocacy and technical assistance to influence relevant nutrition policies and strategies with a focus on enhancing nutrition behaviour change communication (BCC) and making relevant social safety nets nutritionsensitive.
School Feeding (SF) aims to contribute to the Government’s goal of achieving universal primary education. WFP aims to increase enrolment and attendance of pre-and primary schoolchildren by distributing fortified biscuits, delivering essential learning packages, and providing technical support.
Enhancing Resilience to Natural Disasters and the Effects of Climate Change (ER) aims to enhance the resilience and food security of particularly vulnerable people through the creation of community and household assets. It engages participants in community projects, provides training on disaster risk reduction and life skills, and gives women a cash grant for investment following the preparation of a business plan.
Strengthening Government Safety Nets aims to help the Government enhance social safety nets addressing hunger and household food insecurity by providing technical assistance and implementing a promotional safety net and operational research. Under its Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO), WFP is working to improve the food security and nutritional status of 34,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar through three activities: (i) food assistance through biometrically coded electronic vouchers; (ii) supplementary feeding; and (iii) school feeding. WFP provides food assistance through electronic vouchers so that refugees can purchase food according to their choice. The refugees live in two official camps, Kutupalong and Nayapara in the Cox’s Bazar District in southeast Bangladesh.
More than 100 Rohingya families had stuck at Mingalagyi creek on Naf River bank since November 12, after attacked by Burmese military with helicopter-gunship to unarmed civilian in Maungdaw north, according to Hamid Hussin, a watchdog for recent situation of Maungdaw.
The Internal displace people – 100 Rohingya families – had stuck at Mingalagyi village under the Burmese border guard police (BGP) area number 6, which has no problem peaceful area, but the BGP and armed personnel are not allowing Mingalagyi villagers to support foods and other survival stuffs. This IDPs are facing foods, medicines and water. The IDP Rohingyas had established 50 tents and need more shelters for them, Hamid more said.
The security force had restricted their movement, the IDP can’t able to move another place where they can able to survive and the border is so tight, so the IDP can’t able to cross the Naf River border, said Asharff, an elder from the area.
On the other hand, Bangladesh border guard force (BGB) arrested more than 86 Rohingyas – 40 females, 21 males and 25 children - on November 14 and 15 and pushed back on November 15 at 2:00pm after giving foods stuffs and medical treatment, said Abu Rasel Siddik, the BGB officer of Teknaf battalion No. 2.
According to different sources, more Rohingya are trying to enter the Bangladesh to save their lives but BGB preventing enter to Bangladesh by increasing tight security along the border areas again since November 12 after attacking by the military helicopter-gunship in northern Arakan State.
According to Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO) dated November 15, stated, “From 12 November the Myanmar armed forces have intensified combined military and police crackdown on the ordinary Rohingya villagers using helicopter gunships, tanks and artillery. There are instances that all members of some families were shot dead. Those who were fleeing, on being terrified, were blocked and killed by machine gun firing in paddy fields, dales and creeks particularly in and around the Rohingya villages of Myaw Taung, Dargyizar, Yekhechaung Kwasone, Pwinpyu Chaung, Thu Oo La, Longdun, Kyin Chaung (Bawli Bazar) and Wabaek in Northern Maungdaw.”
By Saw Yan Naing
A joint force of four ethnic armed groups have warned local residents in conflict-torn northern Shan State to limit movement in the region as battles escalate against the Burma Army.
“Our ethnic peoples are requested to halt travels in northern Shan State in order to avoid battles during this period of military activity,” read the statement released by the armed organizations. “We appeal to local people to take precautions, and to support this inevitable joint military exercise for the protection of all ethnic people.”
The four groups include the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA), none of whom are signatories to the country’s controversial 2015 nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).
They released the statement on Monday after launching three attacks on Burma Army and police posts in northern Shan State’s Muse Township early Sunday morning, leaving five policemen injured. The groups said they launched the joint military operation because they are under pressure from government forces.
“Despite the fact that our alliance of the Northern Brotherhoods truly wants a genuine peace and wishes to solve political problems through political means, we have inevitably launched such a joint military operation after constant military pressure from the Burma Army,” read the joint statement.
The Burma Army has actively engaged in military offensives using heavy artillery and airstrikes against the four groups in Kachin and Shan states, where they are based.
In their statement, they said that the Tatmadaw had recently launched offensives in territories belonging to the Kachin, Kokang, Ta’ang, Arakanese and Shan ethnic groups, which have intensified with the arrest, torture, and killing of local civilians.
The Burma Army offensives—carried out while peace talks are ongoing—could lead to a breakdown of internal peace and stability, warned the four ethnic armed groups.
Sunday’s attacks against Burma Army posts occurred in Muse Township’s 105th Mile, as well as in the townships of Mong Ko, Pang Sai, Namkham and Kutkai, all in northern Shan State.
By Nang Mya Nadi / DVB
Fighting on Sunday in northern Shan State’s Muse District between the Burmese army and ethnic armed groups compelled hundreds of local civilians to flee across the border to China, according to local sources. Unconfirmed reports indicate there may have been civilian fatalities as well.
Sai Lao Hseng, the chairman of the Literature and Culture Association in Pang Hseng (not to be confused with Wa State capital Pangsang) said gunfire was heard coming from a Burmese military outpost in the town around 5am on Sunday, followed by a barrage of artillery shells landing in the town, prompting hundreds of residents to flee to safety across the border to the Chinese town of Wanding.
“I was in the local market early this morning when vendors were setting up shops. We heard gunfire from a government forces’ base near the Mingalar Zedi Buddhist Temple,” said Sai Lao Hseng. “Shortly after, we heard more shooting from a police outpost about half a kilometre to the east of the military base. Then people started fleeing.”
He added: “We ran to the border, but the Chinese authorities would not let us in. Finally, they relented and opened the gate, but only after we had pleaded with them repeatedly.”
Some of the refugees have relatives in Wanding and went to stay in their homes. Some 800 people with nowhere to go were provided makeshift shelter in a nearby field.
Sai Lao Hseng said a stray shell hit a house in Pang Hseng’s ward 6, and that a vehicle parked outside the road was damaged by shrapnel. In ward 8, a local man named Ar Tee was taken to hospital in Wanding after he was injured by shrapnel from an artillery shell, while another man in the same neighbourhood was reportedly killed when he was shot in the back.
Sunday’s refugees, having fled their homes abruptly, were unable to carry any supplies or belongings.
On the same day, fighting was also reported from Mong Ko, another town in Muse District.
Contrary to local sources who spoke to DVB, state-run Global Light of Myanmar this morning blamed the attacks in Muse on the Kachin Independence Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Kokang rebels.
As of 21 November, an estimated 30,000 people have been displaced and thousands affected by the 9 October armed attacks and subsequent security operations in Rakhine State. This includes as many as 15,000 people who may have been displaced after renewed clashes between armed groups and the military on 12 and 13 November. In Buthidaung and Maungdaw, about 350 ethnic Rakhine and Mro IDPs are also being hosted. Humanitarian services remain suspended since the initial attacks in October, leaving more than 150,000 people without life-saving food, health, cash and nutrition assistance for six weeks. Advocacy efforts continue with the Government for urgent humanitarian access to assess needs and deliver life-saving assistance.
30,000 people displaced
On 12 November, a clash between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and residents of the municipality of Balindong, Lanao del Sur province, affected 1,300 families (6,500 people) who fled from the armed engagement.
The Region XII Office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development delivered food packs to the affected people.
From 14 to 18 November, flooding in Kerawang District, West Java province affected nearly 20,000 people and left about 5,800 houses and buildings under water. With heavy rainfall expected to increase during the next two months, the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) advised local authorities to enhance preparedness measures with the overflow of the Citarum and Cibeet rivers causing recurrent flooding. The local government provided immediate relief to the affected communities.
20,000 people displaced
On 16 November (22:00, UTC+7), a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck about 127 km off the southeast coast of Malang District, East Java province at a depth of 69 km. While no casualties or major injuries were reported, 44 houses in seven sub-districts were damaged according to the provincial disaster management agency (BPBD). Although a tsunami warning was not issued, many people living in coastal areas temporarily evacuated to higher ground and have since returned home. No international support has been requested.
820 Newly Identified Destroyed Buildings; UN-Aided Investigation Urgently Needed
(New York) – New satellite imagery of Burma’s Rakhine State shows 820 newly identified structures destroyed in five different ethnic Rohingya villages between November 10-18, 2016, Human Rights Watch said today. The Burmese government should without further delay invite the United Nations to assist in an impartial investigation of the widespread destruction of villages.
The latest images bring the total number of destroyed buildings documented by Human Rights Watch in northern Rakhine State through satellite imagery to 1,250. US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, at a November 17 UN Security Council meeting on the deteriorating situation in Rakhine State, called for international observers to be allowed to investigate and for aid groups to have their access restored. After a short visit by diplomats to the area, Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on Burma, said on November 18, “The security forces must not be given carte blanche to step up their operations under the smokescreen of having allowed access to an international delegation. Urgent action is needed to bring resolution to the situation."
“These alarming new satellite images confirm that the destruction in Rohingya villages is far greater and in more places than the government has admitted,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The apparent arson attacks against five Rohingya villages is a matter of grave concern for which the Burmese government needs to investigate and prosecute those responsible. UN participation is crucial for such an investigation to be credible.”
Human Rights Watch identified a total of 820 destroyed buildings in five villages of Maungdaw district from an analysis of satellite imagery recorded on November 10, 17, and 18. This damage is in addition to the 430 destroyed buildings Human Rights Watch identified from satellite imagery on November 13. Of the 820 destroyed buildings, 255 were in the village of Yae Khat Chaung Gwa Son; 265 in Dar Gyi Zar; 65 in Pwint Hpyu Chaung; 15 in Myaw Taung; and 220 in Wa Peik (in addition to the 100 which were destroyed earlier in the village).
Human Rights Watch also reviewed thermal anomaly data collected by environmental satellite sensors that detected the presence of multiple active fires burning in the village of Pwint Hpyu Chaung on November 12, in Dar Gyi Zar on November 13, and in Yae Khat Chaung Gwa Son on November 13, 14, and 15. Dense tree cover may have concealed a limited number of additional buildings that were destroyed, making it possible that the actual number is higher.
At a press conference on November 15 in response to Human Rights Watch’s November 13 statement, the Burmese government admitted widespread burning but claimed that the total number of buildings destroyed was significantly lower. The government cited helicopter flyovers of the area to arrive at its figures and blamed unspecified “terrorists” for the burnings.
The new imagery shows village destruction that far exceeds the figures released by the Burmese government, Human Rights Watch said. On November 15, the Burmese military reported that militants burned down 60 homes in Dar Gyi Sar, while the State Counsellor Office’s newly created “Information Committee” reported on November 16 that only 30 buildings were destroyed in the same town. The new imagery shows that 265 buildings have been destroyed in Dar Gyi Zar alone. The State Counsellor’s information committee press release on November 16 mistakenly attributed a claim that all buildings were destroyed in Dar Gyi Zar to Human Rights Watch.
Both the military and the State Counsellor’s information committee reported that 105 buildings were destroyed in Wa Peik village. Satellite imagery collected by Human Rights Watch between November 10-17 shows that an additional 220 buildings were destroyed. This newly documented destruction, coupled with the 100 buildings Human Rights Watch imagery determined were destroyed from images collected between October 9 and November 3, brings the total to 320 buildings destroyed in Wa Peik village.
“On November 15, a government spokesperson suggested that Human Rights Watch was part of a ‘conspiracy’ to harm Burma’s image,” Adams said. “Instead of responding with military-era style accusations and denials, the government should simply look at the facts and take action to protect all people in Burma, whatever their religion or ethnicity.”
The crisis follows violence on October 9, in which gunmen attacked three police outposts in Maungdaw township near the Bangladesh border, leaving nine police officers dead. The government said that the attackers made off with dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. The Burmese government asserts the attack was carried out by a Rohingya group, but actual responsibility remains unclear. A second attack on a border guard post that resulted in the death of a police officer reportedly occurred on November 3.
Immediately after the October 9 attack, government forces declared Maungdaw district an “operation zone” and began sweeps of the area to find the attackers and lost weapons. They severely restricted the freedom of movement of local populations and imposed extended curfews, which remain in place. With the area sealed off to observers, local sources reported that government forces committed serious human rights abuses, including torture, rape, extrajudicial executions, and widespread destruction of buildings, including mosques.
On October 28, Reuters published interviews with Rohingya women who allege that Burmese soldiers raped them. The government also allegedly pressured the Myanmar Times to fire one of its editors who reported allegations of rape by Burmese army soldiers.
The Burmese government conducted a government-supervised tour of some impacted sites in Maungdaw on November 2 and 3 with a nine-member delegation of foreign ambassadors, including the UN Resident Coordinator. The delegation conducted no formal investigation or assessment, but confirmed that they saw burned structures in several towns and spoke with several villagers. Allegations of reprisals against those who spoke to delegation members surfaced shortly after the trip concluded.
Another outbreak of violence reportedly began on November 11. The government reported the deaths of 69 alleged militants and 17 security force personnel. Local groups reported significant civilian casualties, but the lack of access makes all casualty reports difficult to verify. The Burmese military said that helicopter gunships called in to provide air support to its troops were attacked by hundreds of militants.
According to humanitarian aid groups, tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the recent violence, with hundreds attempting to flee to Bangladesh.
The government has responded with blanket denials to allegations that the security forces have committed abuses. Officials maintain that terrorists are responsible for the destruction of the buildings and urge that international journalists investigate the claims. However, the government has continued to block journalists, humanitarian aid workers, and human rights investigators from traveling to the impacted areas.
Burma is obligated under international law to conduct thorough, prompt, and impartial investigations of alleged human rights violations, prosecute those responsible, and provide adequate redress for victims of violations. Standards for such investigations can be found, for example, in the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, and the UN Guidance on Commissions of Inquiry and Fact-Finding Missions. Burma’s failure to conduct such investigations in the past underscores the need for UN assistance, Human Rights Watch said.
In early November, the government granted the World Food Programme (WFP) one-time access to four villages for a one-time food delivery. However, humanitarian aid groups continue to be denied full access, placing tens of thousands of already vulnerable people at greater risk.
Thousands of people impacted by the violence in the villages of Maungdaw have been without aid for six weeks. Despite assurances from the Burmese government that aid access to all impacted areas would be restored, many of the most significantly affected areas remain sealed to humanitarian assessment teams and human rights groups.
“After six weeks of violence with virtually no aid reaching tens of thousands of highly vulnerable people, the government needs to act decisively to assist them,” Adams said. “A government with nothing to hide should have no problem granting access to journalists and human rights investigators.”
Myanmar health ministry slashing anti-virus measures due to lack of funds and overworked doctors skipping check-ups
Overworked doctors skip scheduled pregnancy check-ups-govt
Pregnant women in the dark about risks of contracting Zika
Little evidence of public health campaigns in hospitals
Zika spreading in Southeast Asia; new cases in Thailand, Vietnam
By Shwe Yee Saw Myint
YANGON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Myanmar is largely unprepared for an outbreak of Zika, experts say, with the health ministry slashing anti-virus measures due to lack of funds, overworked doctors skipping check-ups and pregnant women saying they are in the dark about the dangers.
Read more on the Thomson Reuters Foundation
Syrian Arab Republic: Middle East & North Africa: Humanitarian Funding Update (as of 15 November 2016)
IN 2016, HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE PLANS (HRPs) in the MENA region requested US$7 billion and have received $2.6 billion. In total, MENA HRPs are 38 per cent funded. Three new FLASH APPEALS address specific situations: in Iraq where the humanitarian impact of the Mosul operation requires $284 million; in Afghanistan where $152 million is needed to assist returnees from Pakistan; and in Libya where $10 million is needed for Sirt.
The SYRIA REGIONAL REFUGEE AND RESILIENCE PLAN (3RP) requested US$4.55 billion. The total amount received is $2.4 billion (53 per cent), which leaves a shortfall of $2.1 billion (47 per cent).
Nine countries from the MENA region have made pledges and contributed funds in 2016 for humanitarian appeals worldwide.The amount totals $939.6 million, with contributed funds going to 45 countries. The largest donors are United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia which have committed $680 million and pledged a further $362 million. The largest recipients of all donations are Yemen and Syria.
The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) distributed US$11.98 million3 funds to Libya in 2016. Two countries from the MENA region, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, made contributions of $1 million4 each to the CERF.
A committee investigating into violent attacks in Maungtaw and Rathetaung on 9 October formed by Rakhine State Government made a field trip to Kyikanpyin Command Centre, Chanpyin Village, Sabaipinyin Village, Yemyettaung Village, Ngakhuya Village and Kyainchaung Village on 17 November.
First, members of the committee met with 17 households of Maramagyi ethnic group from Forkitaung Village of Laungdon Village-tract, who fled their homes in fear to Kyainchaung Village and inquired about the security situation in their village.
Emergency Assistance Committee of Maungtaw, that accompanied the Investigation Committee on 9/10 Violent Attacks, delivered rice, edible oil, drinking water, dried noodles and fried dry-fish to residents of Hparwutchaung and Kyainchaung villages and security forces along the route. The assistance committee also presented K 20,000 donated by monks and laypersons in Kalay Township to each family in Kappakaung, Myyemyattaung and Kyainchaung villages on behalf of the well-wishers.
Rakhine State Government formed the investigation committee with 11 members on 9 October.
Chairman of the commission U Aung Win said, “This is the second time we have visited the area to learn what the difficulties of local people are. We visited many villages including Sabaipinyin, Ngakhuya and Kyainchaung villages today. We found only a few people in villages resided by Muslims.
It is said that they leave their villages during mornings and come back at nights. We also found that some buildings in some villages, including Ngakhuya and Kyikanpyin, were burnt down. We later learnt that the buildings were set on fire by residents to cast suspicion over security forces.
Another fact we found is that ethnic local people are too afraid to go out as they are minority in the area. They have to live on donations of local social organizations.
It is difficult for them to move to Maungtaw. Their rice is ripe but they do not have harvesting machines. Although the government and social organizations are donating harvesting machines, it is still not enough. They urgently need harvesting and winnowing machines at the moment. The paddy will ruined. We will discuss the issues with the state government as soon as we arrive back.”
In addition, the chairman said that the ethnic families are requesting the government to resettle them in Kyainchaung as they had to live in fear in their native village. One of members of the ethnic group lost his ear and was injured on the throat as he was attacked with swords. He was left as his attackers thought he was dead. He was later treated by the Tatmadaw.
“Education and health conditions are also bad. Schools are still closed. No student dares to go to school,” the chairman added.
The ethnic group also want security for them to go to a market in Maungtaw. The chairman promised to report to the state government everything the resident requested.
To Walk the Earth in Safety 2016: U.S. Global Leadership in Landmine Clearance and Conventional Weapons Destruction
Office of the Spokesperson
November 17, 2016
The United States is the world’s single largest financial supporter of efforts to address humanitarian hazards from landmines and unexploded ordnance in post-conflict countries and to reduce the availability of excess, loosely-secured, or otherwise at-risk weapons and munitions. Today’s release of the 15th edition of To Walk the Earth in Safety, the Department of State’s report summarizing the accomplishments of the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction Program, highlights our enduring commitment to making post-conflict communities safer and setting the stage for their recovery and development.
Since 1993, the United States has invested more than $2.6 billion for the safe clearance of landmines and explosive remnants of war as well as for the securing and safe disposal of excess small arms, light weapons, and munitions, in more than 95 countries, making the United States the world’s single largest financial supporter of conventional weapons destruction.
Just 15 years ago, landmines and explosive remnants of war killed or injured nearly 10,000 men, women, and children every year – more than 25 every day. Due to the concerted efforts of the United States, partner nations, international nongovernmental organizations, and host nations, that figure has now dropped approximately 60 percent.
Working in close cooperation with the Department of Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Leahy War Victims Fund, the Department of State has helped 16 countries to declare themselves mine free, most recently Mozambique in September 2015.
Through the Conventional Weapons Destruction program, the U.S. government has also collaborated with partner nations and international organizations since 2003 to destroy more than 34,000 excess or poorly-secured man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), shoulder-fired missiles that pose a serious potential threat to global aviation in the hands of terrorists or insurgents.
Proactive community outreach through our Mine Risk Education programs have prevented countless injuries while U.S.-funded Survivor Assistance has provided essential medical and rehabilitation services to more than 250,000 people injured by landmines and unexploded ordnance.
For additional information or to request a printed copy of To Walk the Earth in Safety, please contact the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs, at email@example.com, and follow us on Twitter @StateDeptPM.
The report is also available electronically on the Department of State website at http://www.state.gov/t/pm/rls/rpt/walkearth/2016/index.htm