The western state of Rakhine, Myanmar is nestled between the border with Bangladesh and the Rakhine Mountains. Inter-communal violence in Rakhine in June and October led to some 115,000 people fleeing their homes in fear and taking shelter in some of the newest IDP camps in the world. The clashes destroyed houses and public buildings and left many thousands of people without any way of making a living.
Mother of four Sokina Khatu fled from her village to Thea Chaung camp for internally displaced people after the inter-communal conflict in June. "Everything was burned and now we are here," she said. "My husband was killed and now I am in a difficult situation with four children. The children are sick and could even die."
Khim Maung Myint arrived in Thea Chaung in October by boat with his family. They fled conflict in the town of Kyaukpyu where he says their houses were burned.
"We thought our lives were more important than our belongings so we fled with nothing," Kim Maung Myint said. His children had no food for two days during the journey; others became sick, he added.
According to the Government, at least 139 people have been killed, 190 injured and over 10,000 houses destroyed due to the unrest. Several mosques and monasteries were also burned or badly damaged. Days after the renewed violence in October, Barbara Manzi, OCHA’s Head of Office was deployed to the state capital Sittwe to lead the humanitarian coordination and response efforts.
“With the recent escalation of violence, more immediate and well-resourced action is required to address this humanitarian emergency and ensure the wellbeing of the most vulnerable people,” Ms Manzi said.
The most urgent needs are for food, shelter, health services, safe drinking water, and hygiene and sanitation facilities. The July Rakhine Response Plan estimated that some US$32.5 million was required to provide emergency assistance to 80,000 internally displaced people and host communities until the end of 2012. This plan has now been revised upwards to meet the needs of all 115,000 displaced people, and to cover a longer period: it now requests $67.6m to cover needs until June 2013.
More is required, particularly to reach those who were being supported by humanitarian and development programmes before the crisis and who have now been forced from their homes. Agencies have been reaching increasing numbers of these people since late September. Malnutrition and other health problems peak at this time of year, making it even more important to restart and step up humanitarian operations and development programmes.
However, almost three months since the release of the plan, just $18m has been funded or pledged so far, including $4.8 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). This leaves a gap of over $14 million just to meet the needs of those affected by the June violence. Additional donor funding has been pledged in the past week, and a new CERF request is being prepared.
“Current levels of funding are so low that even basic needs are not being met, particularly around temporary shelter and water and sanitation,” said Ms. Manzi. “By the time of the October violence, the relief stocks were depleted. These people are in a desperate situation and we need to help ease their suffering.”
“Having witnessed so many people affected by the violence, including the tens of thousands of people without homes and livelihoods, I am compelled to act and to urge others to do so as well,” Ms Manzi added.
Reported by Stewart Davies