Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
Snapshot 29 October – 4 November
Yemen: As a government was agreed by Houthi and other opposition parties, the Southern Movement announced a merger to represent all southerners in the campaign for independence. Houthi insurgents attacked the Sunni opposition Al Islah party headquarters in Ibb, while Al Qaeda killed 18 Yemeni troops during an attack in Hudaydah.
Nigeria: Boko Haram denied any truce with the Government and ruled out talks, as its fighters took control of the city of Mubi in Adamawa state, displacing thousands of people. 4,500 cases of cholera have been reported in Maiduguri, Borno state, and there is a high risk of the outbreak spreading to areas inaccessible to humanitarian agencies. Food security for the households worst affected by conflict is predicted to remain at Crisis level until March 2015.
South Sudan: Fierce fighting between government and opposition forces in Bentiu, Unity state, has caused displacement and an unconfirmed number of casualties. In Lakes state, intercommunal violence is increasing. The nutrition situation remains dire dire in Jonglei, Unity, Warrap and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states.
Updated: 04/11/2014. Next update: 11/11/2014
SITTWE, 4 November 2014 (IRIN) - As the number of ethnic Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar hits record levels, the prospects for a lasting settlement of the crisis in Myanmar's Rakhine State look bleak.
Chris Lewa, the director of The Arakan Project, a research and advocacy group which monitors Rakhine State, told IRIN the number of Rohingyas that have fled western Myanmar since 2012 has now topped 100,000.
"We have been monitoring these exits for years, and this is the most we had ever seen," she said, adding that in late October up to 900 left in a single day. Lewa attributes the surge to multiple factors. "The last sailing season [period of calm water for boat departures] was just before the census, and many of them felt confident because the government had promised they could self-identify as Rohingya," she said. "Then the rains started, the census didn't count them, and they settled into another wet summer in the camps."
"We are caged like animals here," Muhammad Uslan, who has lived in a camp outside Sittwe (Rakhine State's capital) since July 2012, told IRIN. "We cannot work or go to the town to buy things. Our young people grow up knowing they will never be able to go to university."
Rakhine Buddhists, much like Myanmar's other ethnic minorities, feel marginalized by a history of restrictions imposed by the central ethnic Burman government, which ruled with an iron fist until reforms began in 2010. According to an October 2014 report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), "decades of Rakhine [Buddhist] anger at their treatment at the hands of Burman-dominated regime have not gone away - but they have begun to morph." Much of the ethnic Rakhine anxiety as they assert themselves in increasingly open political space, has been directed at the minority ethnic Rohingya.
Two bouts of communal violence between Buddhist ethnic Rakhines and Muslim Rohingyas in June and October 2012 killed 176 and destroyed more than 10,000 homes and buildings. The government moved some 140,000 Muslims into camps, where most remain today. Communal tensions continue to fester.
Not just a humanitarian crisis
The most recent bulletin from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said access to health care for those in the camps remains a "major challenge", and the UN World Food Programme announced in October that without US$37 million more in assistance, rice distribution in the camps, where nearly all residents rely on food aid, would be interrupted from December onwards.
However, analysts caution, humanitarian action is only one part of the solution. According to ICG, "ultimately, ways must be found to ease [Buddhist] Rakhine fears, while protecting the rights of Muslim communities." However, the report warned, "any plan that meets international concerns may not be able to satisfy local demands."
An October 2014 report by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) says the Myanmar government "has abdicated its leadership responsibilities, passively standing on the sidelines" as aid workers fled in March 2014 after Buddhist mobs targeted their offices.
However, ICG cautioned: "The situation in Rakhine State should not be seen as a simple humanitarian emergency." According to ICG, "a humanitarian response is essential, but such interventions are only one component of addressing a situation to which there are no easy solutions and which is likely to take many years to resolve in an effective and sustainable way."
Stephen Morrison, senior vice-president at CSIS and co-author of their report explained: "It is an exceptionally treacherous territory. There is no simple short-term answer." According to Morrison, interventions in Rakhine State need to "address the legitimate dire needs of the Rohingya and the legitimate sense of marginality of the host [Buddhist Rakhine] community."
Economic issues and demography underlie the tensions. Rakhine State is Myanmar's second poorest region: a popular Rakhine Buddhist fear is that Muslims are pouring over the border from Bangladesh (which currently hosts up to 500,000 Rohingyas who have fled Myanmar) and that they might soon become a majority in the state.
Tufts University economist David Dapice said the facts do not suggest this fear is warranted: "Levels of living in Bangladesh, even among the bottom quarter, are better than the average levels in Rakhine and more Bangladeshi kids are healthy, go to school, and get clean water or electricity. Would you move to a place to be worse off?"
However, assuaging this fear might prove more complicated than analysing it. ICG confirmed the lack of evidence about a Bangladeshi influx, but explained: "What is most important to recognize is the political reality of these strong demographic fears in Rakhine communities."
Segregation hurts economy
Segregation, whether through camps or by restricting movement in majority-Muslim villages, has not been good for the economy. As the internment of Muslims stretched into its first year in 2013, food security indicators across the state dropped. ICG found that some Rakhine business leaders "decry the segregation of Muslims as economic folly".
However, in a September 2014 paper, Dapice explained: "Not all Rakhine people realize how important the Muslim workforce was for the local economy. Now that many [Muslims] are confined to camps or fearful of leaving their villages, wages have risen sharply and some land is not even being farmed due to shortages of labor."
Aid agencies have called in recent months for increased economic development,including infrastructure to attract investment. But the UK-based corporate risk analysis firm Maplecroft warned in October 2014 of "potential disruption companies face if they are perceived to support minorities," including by hiring foreigners or Muslims.
The Arakan Project's Lewa cautions that aid should be delivered based on need, and not a tool for negotiations: "Using aid projects to negotiate peace with the Rakhines would be a disaster. At the first instance, it's a reward for horrible behavior."
ICG agrees, and further warns that development could also unintentionally appear to make underlying fears come true: "There is also great concern that an economically prosperous Rakhine State. could attract significant numbers of illegal economic migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, creating further demographic pressure on the Rakhine."
Leaked plan creates waves
The Myanmar government has made some moves that suggest increased attention to the Rakhine crisis. In June, a high-ranking general was appointed the state's chief minister. In October, the government jailed seven men who were involved in lynching 10 Muslims during the June 2012 riots.
However, a leaked draft of the Rakhine Action Plan, which was meant to chart stability in the state, sparked criticism. Human Rights Watch said it was "nothing less than a blueprint for permanent segregation and statelessness that appears designed to strip the Rohingya of hope and force them to flee the country."
The first phase of the plan, a pilot citizenship verification programme, ran for several months in an area where a large number of Muslim respondents in the 2014 census agreed to be registered as "Bengali" (instead of "Rohingya" - a term the government, and most Rakhines, reject). However, in October the programme was suspended, reportedly because Rakhine Buddhists had criticized the very notion of some interned Muslims becoming citizens.
Government pushes back
Meanwhile, the government of Myanmar is pushing back strongly on international human rights criticism - including by mentioning the Rakhine crisis and, although not by name, the Rohingya identity question.
U Wunna Maung Lwin, Myanmar's foreign minister, addressing the UN General Assembly on 29 September, said: "Myanmar should no longer remain on the agendas of the Human Rights Council and The Third Committee of the UN General Assembly." Speaking on Rakhine at the Third Committee meeting on 30 October, Myanmar's representative to the UN, U Kyaw Tin, said: "The right of self-identification. should not be at the cost of placing obstacles to finding a durable solution to this issue."
In advance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Myanmar on 12-14 November, US president Barack Obama phoned the Burmese reformist president, Thein Sein. The US government record of the conversation mentioned "Rohingya"; the Myanmar government's did not.
Development actors in-country appear to be toeing a more cautious line. For example, the US Agency for International Development has begun designing Myanmar's first ever Demographic and Health Survey. While the majority of DHS questionnaires worldwide contain a question about ethnicity, the Myanmar DHS will not, USAID officials confirmed to IRIN, appearing to heed recommendations before the 2014 census to nix the ethnicity question altogether.
Mohammed Uslan, who was moved to a Sittwe camp by police in 2012 under the guise of his own protection from further communal violence, argued: "The government doesn't need to ask the angry Rakhine people if we have rights as Rohingya. They need to govern all of the people like they are in charge."
RANGOON— Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) today announced that it is beginning to compile a list of eligible voters for next year’s general election.
“We will start the compilation of national voter list with 10 townships in Rangoon in the first phase, and we will continue to the other townships over four phases,” said UEC member Win Kyi.
Staff from 10 township election commissions in Rangoon have spent the past two days training in the data computerization process used to compile voter lists, according to state-run paper The Mirror Daily.
“[In the second phase] we will continue to 41 townships in Rangoon, Taunggyi, southern Shan State and Mandalay,” said Thaung Hlaing, director of the UEC. “From there, the process will continue to other townships across the country.”
Any citizen at least 18 years of age whose name appears on ward-level population lists and household registration lists would be included in voter lists, Thaung Hlaing said.
Voter lists in all 330 townships across the country will be finished by next July. Once the lists are complete, members of the public will have 14 days to check the township voter lists for any wrongful inclusions or exclusions.
“If people believe they have been wrongfully excluded or any persons are wrongfully included, they can file an appeal to the township commission,” he said, adding that voter lists will be open to the public for appeal from seven days after the election date is officially announced next year.
The 2010 elections were widely criticized for reported instances of irregularities and fraud. In addition to reports of coercion and inducements to vote for the incumbent Union Solidarity and Development Party, many eligible voters reported that they were prevented from casting ballots after being excluded from electoral rolls.
Thaung Hlaing said that anomalies in the voter lists prepared for the 2010 elections were the result of the rushed two-month preparation period. With more time to finalize electoral rolls and computerization of voter records, he expects that there will be no wrongful inclusions or exclusions ahead of the 2015 poll.
“Transparency is improved for voter registration now,” he said. “We also have more civil society organizations collaborating in voter registration, whereas in the past, the commission carried out its duties alone.”
At present, 25 civil society groups are collaborating with the UEC on the voter list project, with more expected to join in the coming months.
The UEC made lists of voters in Ahlone Township in Rangoon, Tiddim Township in Chin State, and the Myitkyina constituency in Kachin State in July and August as a trial run for the nationwide voter list preparations now underway.
Than Htay, director of The Serenity Initiative, a civil society group that is assisting with educating the public about the voter list project, said that the pilot project revealed some problems with the compilation process.
“In some lists, deceased people and people who moved to other locations were included on lists, and those who were on the verge of turning 18 years old soon were not included,” he said.
Than Htay stressed the importance of raising public awareness of the voter registration process, so that eligible voters would check to see if they were included on township lists.
“We will educate the public to check their names on the voter list, and how to file an appeal if their name does not appear on the list,” he said.
Echoing comments made to The Irrawaddy at the start of the pilot voter list program in July, Than Htay said that ensuring voter list accuracy was a paramount concern.
“Inclusion on the list of voters is the most important thing for an election. If a person is not included, he or she cannot vote and unfair things can happen,” he said.
The UEC chairman Tin Aye announced on October 20 that the election is scheduled to be held in either the last week of October or the first week of November next year.
For an idea of the extent of Myanmar’s landmine problem, consider the following:
• More than five million people are suspected of living in areas contaminated by landmines.
• Myanmar has the sad distinction of being the only country in which landmines have been used every year since the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty came into force.
• The latest report on the issue showed that the conflict-affected state was one of only two places in the world where the government and non-state actors laid mines during 2012/13.
It’s in this situation that people in the villages of Kayah (or Karenni) state, on the country’s rugged eastern border with Thailand, are living – many unaware of the scale of the problem and the risks they take on a daily basis.
Mine Risk Education
MAG began work in Kayah in 2014, giving lifesaving Mine Risk Education (MRE) to communities dependent for their livelihoods on land that is riddled with mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) from decades of internal conflict.
"MRE activities in our village are really helpful," says Oo Aung Win, who as the leader of Lawpita Shan is responsible for more than 200 households. This is a position he has held for 30 years and one which, as village leaders do not receive any support from the Government, is essentially voluntary.
"Before, we did not know how dangerous mines and UXO really are," he says, "and how to live more safely in a contaminated area."
While the public announcement by President Thein Sein in 2012 that Myanmar had a landmine problem and would need help from the international community raised hopes that mine clearance would soon follow, no such activities have been able to start. As such, many humanitarian mine action organisations such as MAG have prioritised MRE to begin addressing the dangers related to contamination.
And in the meantime it is vital that the people forced to live with landmines and UXO can keep themselves safe.
So far, 3,221 people have attended our MRE sessions in Kayah, and more than a third of these were children.
In total, an estimated 15,139 people have benefited from these sessions, with attendees encouraged to spread the lifesaving messages to their families and friends.
The lifesaving potential of Mine Risk Education is underlined by Oo Paku, leader of Kan Ni village, which is home to 78 families:
"Shortly after MAG gave an MRE session for the elders in our village, they noticed some boys hitting a rock against what the elders were able to recognise as a piece of UXO. They immediately went over to stop the boys, and told them about the danger of explosion and injury."
"We need this"
MAG has also helped 16 at-risk villages, including Lawpita Shan and Kan Ni, to produce community safety maps that indicate the locations of landmines in their area. Hand-drawn by residents and displayed at a central point in these villages for all to see, the maps are designed to protect communities living with this dangerous contamination.
"This is very good," says Oo Paku. "Some villages did not receive any education on mines and UXO, meaning people still take risks."
Both the village leaders expressed hope that the landmines will be cleared soon, but they acknowledged this might not start until peace is secured.
In the meantime, MAG’s Community Liaison teams will continue to do as much as they can to raise awareness and promote safe behaviour for the communities in Kayah state.
Producing community safety maps will remain a part of that, even though discussing contamination – and especially mapping the areas where mines are laid – is still a highly sensitive issue in Myanmar.
When MAG’s Community Liaison team asked Oo Aung Win if he feared any problems for displaying the map, his reply is clear: "It will not matter. I will make it so they accept this. As long as the mines are not cleared, we need this."
About Kayah/Karenni state
Kayah, or Karenni, is the smallest of Myanmar’s states. It is, though, home to a variety of ethnic groups and has plentiful natural resources. When Myanmar, then known as Burma, became independent from Britain in 1948, the level of autonomy for minority ethnic groups remained a highly controversial matter.
Unhappy with the position they were given within the new country's borders, several of these groups took up arms to fight the Yangon-based Government. In 1957, a number of these groups joined forces under the banner of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP).
Most split again in the 1990s, and since President Thein Sein took office in 2011 all of Kayah’s active major ethnic armed groups have signed individual ceasefire agreements with the Government, bringing hope for a lasting peace.
Until a final peace agreement is signed, however, landmine clearance seems unlikely to begin.
The Karenni Nationalities People's Liberation Front (KNPLF) controls much of northern Kayah state near the border with Shan state, and is one of the groups that split from the KNPP. “MRE is very necessary for us all, for the state,” the KNPLF’s Youth Leader Peter Gathui told MAG. "Here, because peace is not achieved we cannot clear the mines yet."
MAG’s Community Liaison Teams work in both government-controlled and so-called contested areas where ethnic armed groups and the local authorities have had to found ways to coexist and govern together until peace is secured.
This report is a combinatory exercise conducted in November 2013. The focus was WFP emergency relief (ER) operations in 11 townships/locations in Kachin (Bhamo, Kar Maing, Man Si, Moe Guang, Moe Mauk, Moe Nyin, Myitkyina, Myotit, Pharkant, Shwe Ku and Waing Maw).
This report is made up of both programme reflective data, through the M&E PDM related questions, and, existing food security concerns through an analysis of the data collected through VAM formulated inquiries.
The data was collected through the following methods:
Quantitative data collection through household (HH) questionnaires - conducted less than two weeks after a distribution;
Qualitative data collection through structured Focus-group discussions - conducted in the same camp and at the same time as the above HH questionnaire but with a group of beneficiaries, men and women together and then separated for gender specific questions.*
The following report is not exhaustive and focuses on information derived from the dataset which is of immediate relevance to WFP’s programs. The table provided in Annex summarizes the quantitative data in a basic descriptive manner and can therefore provide additional insights on the overall findings of the exercise.
BANGKOK, 3 November 2014 (NNT) – The Department of Employment (DOE) says it will need two weeks to complete the registration of 22,000 more migrant workers who could not be registered in time for the October 31 deadline.
According to Mr Pichit Nilthongkham, Director of the Office of Foreign Workers Administration of the DOE, a total of 1.56 million immigrants from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia applied for work permits during the registration period between June 26 and October 31. However, on the final day, employers reportedly brought in an unusually large number of workers for registration, causing a backlog of applications.
As a consequence, the officials were unable to serve over 22,000 applicants and had to arrange appointments with them for later dates. Most of these applicants are residing within Bangkok. Mr Pichit expects that they will be gradually called in to initiate the procedure within two weeks’ time.
Following the registration, the Director said the DOE will coordinate with the neighboring countries in the nationality verification process until March 31 next year, after which the one-year work permits will be issued for qualified registrants.
From now on, any employers found to be hiring illegal migrant workers will be subject to a fine of 10,000-100,000 baht per head while each worker will face a fine of 2,000-100,000 baht or a jail term of up to five years or both.
This is a Post Distribution Monitoring (PDM) and Food Security Report of the WFP Emergency Relief (ER) operations in Sittwe. Data was collected in November 2013, from Sittwe and 7 townships (Kyauk Taw, Kyauk Phyu, Pauk Taw, Min Bya, Mrauk Oo and Myae Bo).
Post-Distribution monitoring household (HH) questionnaires - conducted less than two weeks after a distribution at the household level;
Focus-group questionnaire - conducted in the same location and at the same time as the above HH questionnaire but with a group of beneficiaries, men and women together and then separated for gender specific questions.
The sampling framework utilized was a complete list of IDP locations/camps where emergency relief activities are conducted. Proportional to Size sampling techniques were utilized to select the surveyed villages.
Myanmar: Measurement of attacks and interferences with health care in conflict: validation of an incident reporting tool for attacks on and interferences with health care in eastern Burma
Conflict and Health 2014, 8:23 doi:10.1186/1752-1505-8-23
Published: 3 November 2014
Attacks on health care in armed conflict and other civil disturbances, including those on health workers, health facilities, patients and health transports, represent a critical yet often overlooked violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. Reporting has been limited yet local health workers working on the frontline in conflict are often the victims of chronic abuse and interferences with their care-giving. This paper reports on the validation and revision of an instrument designed to capture incidents via a qualitative and quantitative evaluation method.
Based on previous research and interviews with experts, investigators developed a 33-question instrument to report on attacks on healthcare. These items would provide information about who, what, where, when, and the impact of each incident of attack on or interference with health. The questions are grouped into 4 domains: health facilities, health workers, patients, and health transports. 38 health workers who work in eastern Burma participated in detailed discussion groups in August 2013 to review the face and content validity of the instrument and then tested the instrument based on two simulated scenarios. Completed forms were graded to test the inter-rater reliability of the instrument.
Face and content validity were confirmed with participants expressing that the instrument would assist in better reporting of attacks on health in the setting of eastern Burma where they work. Participants were able to give an accurate account of relevant incidents (86% and 82% on Scenarios 1 and 2 respectively). Item-by-item review of the instrument revealed that greater than 95% of participants completed the correct sections. Errors primarily occurred in quantifying the impact of the incident on patient care. Revisions to the translated instrument based on the results consisted primarily of design improvements and simplification of some numerical fields.
This instrument was validated for use in eastern Burma and could be used as a model for reporting violence towards health care in other conflict settings.
The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.
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.
--Experiences from Asia-- - Recent disasters show that humanitarian actors are increasingly using communication tools - radio, mobile phones, social media and crisis-mapping - to access, communicate and disseminate information that may save lives or improve conditions for the most vulnerable. Take a look at the infographic below, or individually for Myanmar, Βangladesh and the Philippines.
Radio - The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), hosted a Radio Red Crescent Training Camp from October 13-16, 2014. The purpose of the training camp was to equip a team with the skills necessary to produce a weekly humanitarian radio prorgramme – Radio Red Crescent.
Once a week, Radio Red Crescent will provide communities with the opportunity to listen and ask questions to experts in the humanitarian field about issues related to their own development or recovery. True to the show’s tagline, We Listen to You, the content of the programme will be developed based on the needs and interests of local communities and will be driven by the network of volunteers from various districts in the country. Radio Red Crescent will air on Radio Betar weekly and is expected to be launched in mid-November.
Report - As the one year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan approaches, the IOM report ‘Starting the Conversation’ provides a detailed assessment of the communications preferences of communities in and around Tacloban during the emergency and recovery phase. It also reviews communications tools used following the typhoon and provides recommendations for future communications campaigns to support the growing body of CwC evidence-based research.
Zamboanga City, Minandao - The Communications Working Group conducted the first joint Communications with Communities (CwC) and Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) community feedback consultations in Masepla temporary relocation site (the largest in Zamboanga), the Grandstand evacuation center and the Buggoc transitory site. The consolidated and analyzed feedback was shared for the first time during the inter-cluster coordination (ICC) meeting. Community voices especially on issues of movement in the permanent relocation sites and assistance to vulnerable groups such as people with disability, indigenous and women are now part of the standing agenda of the Zamboanga ICC meeting.
Central Mindanao Region – The OCHA AAP Field Report on mainstreaming AAP in Central Mindanao helped informed the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao to prioritize the training of people’s organization on livelihood projects such as Tilapia food processing and hatchery management.
Typhoon Haiyan response – The AAP and CwC groups established feedback mechanisms and referral pathways in order that information related to needs and assistance is able to flow to and from affected communities across affected areas. The flow of information from communities has increased the quality of programming and cluster decision-making in some key areas, but closing the loop and providing information back to communities effectively is still a challenge. Read more on page 32 of the Final Periodic Monitoring Report, November 2013 – August 2014.
For more on the Philippines, check out these IOM blog posts: Communications Working Group active in Zamboanga l Guiuan’s Tent City holds community meeting l How access to information empowered women in Barangay Looy to fight gender-based violence.
Clusters develop preparedness messaging for communities - BBC Media Action and OCHA held a message development training workshop for cluster and sector focal points, as a first step in the development of a library of technical messages in the event of an earthquake or cyclone.
These will be integrated with those of Myanmar Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, the Government and other stakeholders. This draws on the lessons learned during the OCHA simulation exercise in Yangon in September.
Conflict Sensitive Journalism: Special Edition Myanmar - International Media Support (IMS) is working to help improve in Myanmar’s media environment for many years. This month they published Conflict Sensitive Journalism: Special Edition Myanmar. This handbook is designed to serve as a practical, everyday guide for Myanmar journalists covering conflict. It is an adaptation of similar country-specific handbooks published by IMS for different countries.
Myanmar News Lab - Internews build media capacity through the Myanmar News Lab. It is a 10-week intensive expert-led training in a simulated newsroom environment. Media pieces produced by participating journalists during the workshop are sent back to the outlets, in which they work, for publication or broadcast.
Launch Event, Bangkok – Regional launch of the CDAC Network Typhoon Haiyan Learning Review. Join humanitarian partners in an informal discussed of the results and recommendations from the Network’s review of information sharing with affected communities as well as how information coordination manifested in the response.
Time/date: 2.00 – 3.00pm on Tuesday 25 November 2014, with afternoon refreshments following. RSVP to Stewart Davies at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 14 November 2014.
Venue: DoubleTree by Hilton Sukhumvit (Theatre Room), 18/1 Sukhumvit Soi 26, Sukhumvit Road, Khlong Toei, Bangkok, Thailand l BTS Phrom Phong l Click here for the Google Map l www.sukhumvitbangkok.hilton.com.
Guidance for Establishing an Affected Persons Information Center - This guidance is intended for in-country responding entities that seek to share information in a way to empower the affected community. It is broken into three parts: 1) Understanding Affected Persons Information Centres (APIC), 2) Identifying and Addressing Limitations, and 3) Guidance for Construction of and operating APIC.
Although the author, Andrej Verity is an employee of OCHA, this guidance is not a product of and does not reflect any ongoing or planned projects of OCHA. Read more >>>
A survey of TB diagnostic and treatment practices in eight countries
This is a pivotal time in the fight against tuberculosis (TB), a curable disease that continues to kill more than a million people a year. Amid an emerging drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) crisis, new tools are emerging that offer the potential to strengthen and accelerate the global TB response. How quickly and effectively these will be leveraged to impact the overall TB response is largely dependent upon three factors: effective policies at the national level; full implementation of current WHO guidelines; and access to new drugs and diagnostics.
Based on a survey of eight high TB burden countries, MSF’s research reveals that efforts to control the epidemic are dangerously out of step with international recommendations and proven best practices, leaving drug resistant forms of TB to spread unabated. MSF warns that governments, donors and industry must act now, using every means available, to step-up the response to the crisis, or face a further growth in resistance.
By SHWE AUNG
The World Food Programme (WFP) says it has cut its humanitarian aid assistance to displaced persons in Meikhtila, central Burma.
“From March 2013 to August 2014, WFP provided food assistance to over 10,000 displaced people in Meikhtila camps,” the agency’s Rangoon office told DVB by email on Thursday. “WFP monitoring and evaluation missions to the camps concluded that the assisted population had adequate access to livelihood and income generating opportunities. They possessed other coping mechanisms and were able to resume their normal pre-March 2013 activities.
“In the light of increasing needs for food assistance in Myanmar [Burma], WFP was urged to prioritise emergencies and support to the most vulnerable communities in the country. Meikhtila population no longer fell under these categories.”
Displaced residents of Meikhtila, mostly Muslims who lost their homes in communal riots last year, say they have been facing food shortages since the WFP announced the cuts.
Tin Ko, an IDP at one of the three remaining displacement camps in Meikhtila, said some 3,500 inhabitants in the camps have not been receiving any food rations from the WFP for two months.
“The WFP was previously providing us with rice, cooking oil, salt and beans, but they stopped in August,” he said, adding that many people in the camp are now taking up manual labour jobs to make ends meet, while others have resorted to begging in the streets.
Tin Ko said several private philanthropists used to bring donations to the IDPs in the past, but nowadays they receive little.
Abbot Batdanda Seintita of the Asia Light Foundation, a charity group that donated aid to the Meikhtila IDPs last year, said, “I have not been told about any food shortages. If I had been made aware, I would have sought donations for them.”
Around 10,000 people were displaced in communal violence that broke out in the central Burmese town in late March 2013, sparked by a quarrel between a Muslim and a Buddhist in a gold shop.
Meanwhile, BBC Burmese reported on Thursday night that WFP plans to cut its entire ration across the country by 20 percent in November.
WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella is quoted saying that the WFP “plans to cut rice rations to IDP camps in Burma by up to 20 percent due to a budget shortage”. The report said around 70,000 IDPs in Shan and Kachin states and tens of thousands in Arakan State will be affected.
Ms Casella reportedly said the WFP has a US$8 million shortfall in budget between now and February. It would therefore cut rice rations across the board. However, other essential supplies would not be affected, she said, pointing to cooking oil, beans and special food supplements for mothers and children.
Ms Casella said the WFP has requested assistance from donors to provide more food aid in Burma, and that if such funds become available then the 20 percent ration cut will only be temporary.
Letter of Agreement Signed Between the Department of Rural Development and WFP
On 17 September, a Letter of Agreement (LoA) between WFP and the Department of Rural Development under the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development (MLFRD) was signed in Naypyitaw. WFP Country Director Mr Dom Scalpelli attended the signing ceremony, where he reconfirmed WFP’s commitment to cooperating on the institutionalization of MLFRD’s technical capacities related to food security and poverty vulnerability assessment and enhancement of the ministry’s programmatic coordination on poverty reduction and rural development. WFP is cooperating with MLFRD to carry out food security surveys across the country. The technical and analytical capacities of MLFRD staff development will be supported through the establishment of a central information office in Naypyitaw and resource centres across the country. WFP will provide technical equipment and trainings. A series of food security surveys has already been conducted in Chin, Kachin, Shan States, Sagaing, Bago, Ayeyarwaddy and Yangon Regions as well as the Dry Zone in collaboration with MLFRD.
In the same afternoon, WFP presented the main findings of the Delta zone - Bago, Ayeyarwaddy and Yangon Regions - food security and poverty survey to the participants from MLFRD and several ministries in Naypyitaw. The survey was jointly conducted with MLFRD in January 2014. One thousand and eight hundred households from the Delta zone were interviewed on their food consumption, dietary diversity, hunger scale, food provisioning, coping mechanisms, income, assets and expenditures.
The findings have shown that 26 percent of the households from Ayeyarwaddy, 23 percent from Bago and 21 percent from Yangon regions are living below the national poverty line.
Disaster Vulnerability and Donor Opportunity in South and Southeast Asia outlines opportunities for donors of all kinds to support disaster preparedness and risk reduction programs in six of the world's most at-risk countries. It offers strategic advice for donors to make the most impact with each investment, and how to integrate resilience into current strategies. The paper comes as a part of the Give2Asia and International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) NGO Disaster Preparedness Program, which aims to catalyze philanthropic investment in disaster preparedness and resilience in Asia. Over the course of this program, Give2Asia and IIRR will build upon these donor opportunities and strategic advice to improve the quality of disaster philanthropy in Asia.
Learn more about Give2Asia's disaster preparedness work by clicking here.
The ability to get and disseminate good, reliable data, especially in conflict or crisis-prone areas, is crucial for informed decision-making in development cooperation and aid efficiency, saving many lives. However, this is becoming increasingly challenging. In fast-developing Myanmar, for example, online and mobile media and information dissemination platforms are constantly evolving, producing increasing amounts of content.
Access to content and connectivity is also burgeoning, with new telcos entering the country promising upwards of 80% countrywide coverage in the next couple of years.
In light of these developments, an information management workshop was held in Yangon, Myanmar on 2 and 3 October for information management experts working in humanitarian operations, crisis management and development planning, management, monitoring and evaluation in Myanmar.
Organized by UNESCO, together with the Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU) and the ICT4Peace Foundation, and within the framework of the joint UNESCO-UNDP peace-building project in Myanmar, the workshop, led by ICT4Peace’s Sanjana Hattotuwa, gave participants a chance to learn about social media and data trends, the platforms available, their characteristics, and how to effectively leverage these for crisis information management. This included knowing how to use the tools in the collection, verification, and dissemination of information to improve situational awareness.
During the workshop, participants also discussed topics like the use of social media for voter education and election violence monitoring for the elections next year. The issue of hate speech – and verification of information – also received substantial interest from participants, given the nascent revolution in communications.
The learning objectives for this training were:
- to be able to use new media tools to collect, analyse, present, verify and disseminate information;
- to understand the impact new and web-based social media have on information management and situational awareness;
- to be aware of the added complexities that have arisen and are arising through the increased use of new media; and
- to understand the nature of big and open data on the web and Internet, and how this information can be useful in crisis response and mitigation.
The effectiveness of the training was clearly reflected in the positive feedback received from participants, who not only found the workshop valuable, but also hoped that more of such sessions could be held in the future, demonstrating the importance placed on equipping information managers with the skills they need to deal with the ever-changing online media and information landscape.
Ethnic violence forced Dan Nyo Nyo to flee her home. She is now living at IDP camp in Rakhine state in Myanmar with her family. Her biggest concern is the suspension of her children’s education.
Ohn Taw Gyi South is one of 60 IDP camps in Rakhine state, North-West Myanmar. Many came to the camps from the town of Sittwe, where the hostilities between Muslims and Buddhists erupted into fully-fledged violence in June and October of 2012. 200 people were killed and several houses burnt. The entire state entered into full crisis.
Tens of thousands were forced to leave their homes, their work and schools behind. Dan Nyo Nyo, 42, travelled for nine hours by boat with her family to reach the Ohn Taw Gyi South camp.
“We were utterly hopeless. We had to flee. The boat carried over 60 people. Thankfully we didn’t have to pay as the owner of the boat was my cousin”, says Dan Nyo Nyo, a mother of five.
She lives in the camp with her husband and three children. At the beginning the family settled to a small village with population from the same ethnic group. After seven months the government officials decided to move them to the Ohn Taw Gyi South camp, a short distance away. This was in July 2013.
Bamboo walls keep nothing private
Now Dan Nyo Nyo works hard to help the residents of the camp. She’s in charge of a team of semi-volunteers, leader of a women’s group and a member of education work group.
“I want to help here, and I no longer feel homeless.”
The living conditions at the camp are far from ideal, and life is stressful. Ohn Taw Giy South is closed from the rest of the world, and the residents can’t leave to visit the town, school or health service facilities. People are frustrated.
Dan Nyo Nyo and her family live in a bamboo house, shared with seven other families. Each family gets a hallway and one room.
“Neighbours are just behind the bamboo walls. You can hear everything, fights and despair. A lot of the men have a drinking problem and are violent. Women’s situation is the hardest in the camp.”
“As a leader of a women’s group, I listen to them and try to solve their problems. Sometimes that means divorces.”
Two hours of schooling each day
Izali Thet Mon, 9, a daughter of Dan Nyo Nyo, is on the 3rd grade at primary school. The temporary school is being supported by Finn Church Aid. School starts at 1 pm and lasts for two hours.
“The schools here are completely different from home. Here the teachers only have middle school qualifications, whereas in our village they had teacher’s qualifications”, Dan Nyo Nyo says.
Only few get to go to the temporary schools. Teachers are camp’s residents who have received one week’s training. Three teachers are teaching two separate classes in three shifts during weekdays. The students are noisy, but the teachers are well liked. At least everyone gets to learn how to read and write.
There are no middle schools or upper secondary schools at the camp. One can only dream of going to a university. Moving to go study in one would require an ID card, which none of the camp residents have.
“My youngest son can’t continue his studies here. If he doesn’t get to go to university, it would be a terrible loss”, Dan Nyo Nyo says.
To continue his studies, the whole family would have to move to Yangoon, the largest city of Myanmar.
“We cannot afford to bribe the officials, we just have to wait for things to change”, she says.
My salary goes to those most in need
In the meantime, Dan Nyo Nyo does her best to help people living at the camp.
“I am good at mobilising people. My husband and my oldest daughter are also helping the people. If we were to go, everyone would be unhappy.”
Her monthly salary is 40 euros.
“I give it to others at the camp. For medicine and other necessities. We have two sons working in Malaysia, who send us money for living, so we are ok”, she says.
“I want to help people here and live here. But, for the sake of our children, we have to move.”
Rakhine state in Myanmar has long suffered from ethnic tensions between different ethnic groups in the region. Dividing the groups bluntly; between Muslims and Buddhists. There are approximately 140 000 internally displaced people (IDP) in the region. Lutheran World Federation is coordinating Finn Church Aid’ Education in Emergencies – programme which is funded by ECHO. The primary schooling of children and youth of both communities are being supported at their IDP camps.
Text: Eeva Suhonen Photos: Ville Asikainen
LAIZA, Myanmar, October 29 (UNHCR) – With colourful fabrics spread around tables and the rhythmic sound of sewing machines, interrupted by laughter and conversation, there is great camaraderie among a group of women in one of Laiza's camps for internally displaced people (IDP). But these resilient students have all lost their homes and belongings.
"In this training I mainly learned how to make children's clothes. We started learning with children's clothes, then shirts, trousers, coats and some longyis (a traditional skirt for men and women) and blouses," says 24-year-old trainee Maran Ja* enthusiastically.
Women of all ages diligently follow the instructions of the trainer and sew together pieces to form a tartan-patterned men's shirt. They are part of a pilot project run by UNHCR to foster cohesion among IDP women in Hpun Lum Yang camp and to help them find solutions for the practical problems that they and their community face.
Kachin state in north-eastern Myanmar is the scene of a conflict that resumed in June 2011, breaking a 17-year-long ceasefire agreement between the Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Organization. The fighting has displaced more than 100,000 people so far.
UNHCR has been responding to the humanitarian crisis by providing shelter and emergency relief items in the IDP camps as well as closely monitoring the protection situation.
"I lost my husband, my youngest child is three years old and altogether I have six children," says Bawk Mai, one of the tailoring trainees. "I have almost no time to go out and work. My mother is old and so I have another person to look after."
Many of the families in the IDP camps are headed by women. In some cases, husbands leave for extended periods of time in search of work, others have fallen victim to the conflict. Women carry the burden of looking after the family, making sure the children get enough food and adequate clothing, taking care of shelters and, when possible, trying to make a living.
Small projects and activities, like tailoring lessons, provide displaced women with a safe source of income and encourage them to get together, share their concerns and help others. Increasingly, UNHCR is supporting IDPs to initiate community-based protection activities to help the community help themselves. They identify, discuss and decide how to address protection issues.
Displaced people can be exposed to higher risks of exploitation, forced labour, extortion and other abuses. Women and girls especially face the risk of being trafficked.
In the camps where the pilot programmes started in late 2013, tailoring training was identified by women as one way to respond to the protection risks they face. The members of the women's committee then selected the trainees for tailoring. Participants included widows, women with many children, students who have dropped out of school and people living with disabilities. Survivors of trafficking are expected to join in the future.
Since the skills-training courses were launched, classes have been replicated in 11 camps throughout Kachin benefitting some 340 women. Training is also provided in knitting, weaving and soap-making, though tailoring remains the most sought-after skill. The trainees learn basic tailoring skills in three months and are able to produce a broad range of clothes.
Together with skills training there are sessions on awareness-raising on protection issues such as domestic violence, sexual and gender-based violence, trafficking and the needs of older people in the camp. Increased awareness on the risks they face is a first step towards prevention.
The training is also protection: "By attending this training, the girls can learn some skills and make a small income. But more than anything it keeps them busy. They don't have time to get bored and think of the option to go to China and run into risks of abuse and exploitation. This is already protection!" comments one of the women.
The activity is also helping them to look ahead. "This tailoring skill can be useful even when we move from the camp back to our village," says participant, Lashi Lu Shawng. "I believe we can earn money and find a sewing machine and use the skill as a livelihood to support our families."
In the future, the trainees would like to receive training in advanced skills in order to sew more elaborate traditional clothes. They believe that once they have these skills, they will feel more independent and confident in their lives.
*All names changed for protection reasons
By Medea Savary in Laiza, Myanmar
Naypyidaw, Myanmar | AFP | Friday 10/31/2014 - 11:36 GMT
by Hla-Hla HTAY
Myanmar's parliament will consider amending the country's constitution -- which currently bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president -- ahead of crucial elections next year, an official said Friday.
Suu Kyi is trying to change key sections of Myanmar's charter ahead of 2015 polls that are widely expected to be won by her National League for Democracy (NLD), if they are free and fair, after decades of disastrous military rule.
The move to moot constitutional reform was discussed during unprecedented talks between President Thein Sein and his political rivals, including Suu Kyi, as well as top army brass and election officials.
"They agreed to discuss the issue of amending the constitution in parliament, according to the law," presidential spokesman Ye Htut told reporters after the meeting in the capital Naypyidaw.
The NLD has focused on altering a provision in the constitution that ensures the military in the former junta-ruled nation has a veto on any amendment to the charter.
It believes revising the clause will open the way for further changes to other constitutional provisions, including the ring-fenced proportion of soldiers in parliament and the effective bar on Suu Kyi leading the country.
Ye Htut did not elaborate on which elements of the constitution were up for debate.
As it stands, Suu Kyi is ineligible to become president because of a clause in the 2008 charter blocking anyone whose spouse or children are overseas citizens from leading the country. The Nobel laureate's late husband was British, as are her two sons.
To alter the constitution there needs to be support from a 75 percent majority in parliament, and as unelected soldiers make up a quarter of the legislature they have the last say on any changes.
- Obama calls -
The extraordinary talks Friday -- the first of its kind as the nation emerges from decades of outright military rule -- saw Thein Sein and Suu Kyi walk into the meeting together.
The discussions, which lasted for more than two hours, came a day after the White House said US President Barack Obama spoke to Thein Sein and Suu Kyi about the elections, which are seen as a key test of democratic reforms under the quasi-civilian government.
Obama "underscored the need for an inclusive and credible process for conducting the 2015 elections" during telephone talks with the Myanmar president, said the White House statement Thursday.
The US leader also spoke to Suu Kyi about how Washington can "support efforts to promote tolerance, respect for diversity, and a more inclusive political environment", it said.
The US leader will visit Myanmar in a fortnight's time for a major regional conference.
Last week Myanmar authorities announced the landmark polls would be held in the final week of October or the first week of November 2015.
Myanmar's previous general election in 2010 was marred by widespread accusations of cheating and was held without Suu Kyi, who was kept under lock and key until days after the vote, or her NLD party.
The polls came as the military relinquished its outright control of the government, after decades of misrule in which they turned Myanmar into a diplomatic pariah and drove the economy into the ground.
- 'Carefully timed' -
Under Thein Sein, a former general, Myanmar is now at a crossroads as it grapples with thorny political and constitutional questions and the search for a nationwide ceasefire to several rebellions.
Trevor Wilson, a former Australian ambassador to Myanmar and visiting fellow at the Australian National University, said the timing of Friday's meeting, before Obama's visit, was highly significant.
"Without a doubt this is carefully timed. Even if (the outcome of) this meeting wasn't positive he (Thein Sein) could certainly say to Obama I've tried and made an effort to listen to people."
In 2012 by-elections Suu Kyi's party won almost every seat available and the 69-year-old, who spent more than a decade under house arrest during the junta years, became an MP for the first time.
The NLD is now expected to win a major slice of the legislature next year after which parliament will select a president.
Myanmar has promised the vote will be the freest in the country's modern history after the military ceded direct power to a quasi-civilian government three years ago.
In recent years Thein Sein has surprised the international community with a number of dramatic reforms that have seen international sanctions removed as the country opens up to the world.
Most political prisoners have been released, Suu Kyi moves freely as a political player, and the government has set its sights on ending multiple civil wars with armed ethnic minority rebels.
But the country still faces a myriad of challenges -- including an opaque legal system, creaking infrastructure and significant poverty levels -- that will need to be tackled by any new government after next year's election.
© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse
Naypyidaw, Birmanie | AFP | Friday 10/31/2014 - 03:22 GMT
Myanmar President Thein Sein opened unprecedented talks with army top brass and political rivals including Aung San Suu Kyi in the capital Naypyidaw Friday ahead of crucial elections next year.
Thein Sein and Suu Kyi walked into the meeting together to begin talks that are the first of their kind in the country as it moves to emerge from decades of outright military rule.
The talks come a day after the White House said US President Barack Obama spoke to both Thein Sein and Suu Kyi about the upcoming polls, less than a fortnight before the US leader visits Myanmar.
Obama called for "inclusive and credible" elections during telephone talks with Thein Sein, said the White House in a statement.
Last week Myanmar election authorities announced the country's landmark elections would be held in the last week of October or the first week of November 2015.
Obama also spoke with Suu Kyi about how Washington can "support efforts to promote tolerance, respect for diversity, and a more inclusive political environment", the White House said.
The talks in Myanmar on Friday come as the fast-changing nation grapples with thorny political and constitutional questions and the search for a nationwide ceasefire to several rebellions.
© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse
After nearly a year of trying, we have managed to get access to our most remote village Ta Yai in Bang Saphan. The village is a widely scattered group of houses with its majority of houses and population on the Burmese side of the border.
It was a very demanding and challenging trek through rivers (six crossings through waist-high water with strong current), mountains and jungle. We were able to take 7 volunteers including our Doctor who was able to offer medical care to people who have no access to health care and regular supply of medicines.
We diagnosed a young boy of 8 having asthma. We will be supporting him with inhalers.
Our assessment team worked hard to get an update of the current situation, as they have had to move location several times to ensure they are safe. They have a huge problem with a regular food supply and clean water. With the assessment team working closely with the leader of the village, we identified the top five needs of the villagers.
Even with no access to basic needs, the villagers understand the value of investing in the future of the children and their education. Four of the five needs are to support children with access to a rented house, nearly two hours away from the village, so that they can go to school. We distributed much-needed rice, mosquito nets and clothes to the villagers, particularly needed during the rainy season. We also left a box of medicines with the village nurse. We repaired petrol operated generator set and trained villagers on how to operate it. We also helped them with money to buy fuel for it.
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After an amazing day with the incredible volunteers and incredible people we work with we headed home.
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