Monday, July 24, 2017

Greater access, engagement needed in Rakhine State: EU

Visiting European Union Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, has called for greater humanitarian access for communities in the northern part of Rakhine State, that was largely affected by inter-communal violence and by insurgent attacks.

The EU official was the first commissioner to visit the northern part of Rakhine State. The EU has announced €12 million worth of new funding to assist in Myanmar’s humanitarian efforts.

Despite the Myanmar government’s efforts in developing a food security and nutrition strategy for the conflict-torn state that borders with Bangladesh, the EU commissioner said better engagement was still required.

“We still need better humanitarian access in order to facilitate a quick and full response by aid agencies to assist all affected communities. It is particularly important to help civilians who have suffered involuntary displacements as well as supporting their livelihoods,” Commissioner Stylianides was quoted in a statement released by the EU yesterday.

The newly announced funding is part of an overall €27 million (approximately K40 billion) package for South and East Asia and the Pacific.

The statement added that Christos Stylianides is the first EU commissioner to visit the northern part of Rakhine State where he called for greater access for aid organisations working there.

Based on his observations during his visit, he said Myanmar still needs humanitarian assistance.

“The recent violence in northern Rakhine State has created a pressing humanitarian need. During my visit, I saw that malnutrition rates have deteriorated after the recent crisis,” Christos Stylianides said.

Of the total assistance, over €9 million (K13.3 billion) of the new EU funding would be used for direct humanitarian assistance for conflict-affected communities in Rakhine, Shan and Kachin states.

According to the press statement released by the EU, “for disaster-risk-reduction programs to enhance the resilience of communities at risk of natural disasters, about €3 million (K4.4 billion) will be used.”

“To date, more than 130,000 people who were dependent on aid, remain without much-needed regular assistance,” said the EU statement.

Since 1994, the European Union provided €229 million (more than K337.6 billion) in humanitarian aid to Myanmar.

The military operations that followed the incident, in which border guard posts in the northern part of Rakhine State were attacked by insurgents in October last year, has caused the temporary halt of humanitarian activities in the areas.

The inter-communal violence that sparked in 2012, has affected the Rakhine residents as well as Muslim communities who identify themselves as “Rohingyas.”

However, the government regards most of them as intruders from Bangladesh, calling them “Bengalis”, and whose population has reached more than 8 million.

The inter-communal violence spread across Myanmar, including Meiktila, Mandalay and Yangon townships.

After taking office in April of 2016, the incumbent National League for Democracy government has formed an advisory commission, headed by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to find a long-term and sustainable solution for Rakhine State.