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Myanmar: Continued conflict an impediment in the fight against COVID-19

28 Apr 2020

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ICRC teams in Myanmar provide handwashing stations, COVID-19 information sessions and support to newly released detainees in quarantine. Credit: ICRC

The ongoing conflict between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the Arakan Army in Rakhine and southern areas of Chin State has been again marked by increased civilian casualties and population movements in recent weeks.

Last week alone, more than 30 civilians were reportedly killed or injured, including children, by shelling and small-arms fire.

On 20 April, a World Health Organization staff member was killed, and a government health-care worker was injured while on a mission in support of the COVID-19 response, after the UN vehicle they were travelling in came under attack in Rakhine State.

The Humanitarian Coordinator, Ola Almgren, has highlighted that continued conflict is also a major impediment in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Myanmar is now facing the very real threat of the pandemic, and the UN is working closely to support national prevention and response efforts. 

Yesterday, Mr. Almgren renewed his call to all parties to conflict to heed the Secretary-General’s call for a ceasefire, put down their guns and come together to fight against the common enemy, COVID-19.

Intensified fighting in Minbya has forced some 4,000 people flee their homes over a two-day period last week, while smaller-scale displacement continues in other townships.

Overall, nearly 78,000 people are currently displaced in Rakhine and Chin states due to the ongoing conflict – a more than 50 per cent increase since the beginning of the year.

The UN and humanitarian partners are working to provide essential food, shelter and sanitation to those who have been displaced, as well as continuing assistance to long-term internally displaced people and others in need across the country. Ongoing conflict continues to hamper these efforts.