UNHCR delivers aid to over 30,000 displaced people in Myanmar's Rakhine state

Briefing Notes, 27 July 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 27 July 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In Myanmar's northern Rakhine state, more than 30,000 people affected by recent inter-communal clashes have received UNHCR emergency supplies. As we speak, additional tents are being airlifted from the Republic of Korea to meet urgent shelter needs on the ground.

An estimated 80,000 people are displaced in and around the towns of Sittwe and Maungdaw, according to UN and NGO assessments. Most of them are living in camps for internally displaced people, with smaller numbers staying with host families in surrounding villages. Many of the Rakhine IDPs whose houses were not destroyed have returned home. Others have said they would return if they could get help building new homes.

Some displaced Muslims tell UNHCR staff they would also like to go home to resume work, but fear for their safety. Movements are restricted in Sittwe, preventing IDPs and host families from earning a living as labourers, trishaw drivers and market sellers. Fishermen cannot reach the lagoon and the nearby waters are too rough for fishing. Some say they are running out of money and food. The sick now have to travel longer distances to access health care in the IDP camps. Pregnant women are also facing problems reaching hospitals.

UNHCR staff have so far distributed 6,000 family kits containing plastic sheets, sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets and kitchen sets. More relief items are being dispatched this week to those who need it most, regardless of their background. In a positive development, some camps that had previously declined international aid are now welcoming whatever assistance we can provide.

The government has started building shelters in several IDP camps. UNHCR has sent existing supplies of 400 tents to Maungdaw to support these efforts. In a few hours, the airlift carrying the first batch of some 700 tents and 700 tarpaulins donated by the Government of the Republic of Korea is expected to land in Yangon, followed by two more flights over the weekend. We appreciate this rapid response to our appeal.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Bangkok: Vivian Tan on mobile +66 818 270 280
  • In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617
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