Displacement in Myanmar's Rakhine state still rising

Briefing Notes, 5 October 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 5 October 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Four months after inter-communal violence erupted in western Myanmar's Rakhine state, the scale of internal displacement is still growing with affected villagers continuing to leave their homes in search of food, healthcare and other assistance.

According to figures provided by the local authorities, there are currently some 75,000 internally displaced people in IDP camps in Rakhine state, mostly in and around the townships of Sittwe, Kyauk Taw and Maungdaw. This is an increase from the initial government estimate of around 50,000 displaced people shortly after the unrest broke out in early June. In early August, there was a resurgence of violence in Kyauk Taw township; more than 4,000 people had their homes burned down in the attacks.

Many more people are believed to have been indirectly affected by the violence. The humanitarian community is committed to assisting all affected communities in accordance with the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality.

Despite the rising trend, there have been some returns. Since June, for example, many displaced people whose houses remain intact in Sittwe town have gone home. A fragile calm has returned but the situation is still tense. Movement is still restricted in parts of Rakhine state, preventing some villagers from going to work, accessing markets, food supplies, health services and education. Out of desperation, people are leaving villages to seek food and medical assistance at the IDP camps.

Together with our humanitarian partners, UNHCR has been advocating for greater humanitarian access and for support to be provided to these villages. We hope that by delivering aid in places of origin, humanitarian agencies can help to prevent further displacement and make interventions that can facilitate the eventual return of IDPs.

As part of the inter-agency response in Rakhine state, UNHCR has distributed relief supplies for some 54,000 people in IDP sites. These supplies include plastic sheets, sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets and kitchen sets. We are also supporting the construction of emergency temporary shelters that can house about 10,500 people. At the same time, the humanitarian community is working to support the delivery of basic assistance in these government-run IDP camps, making sure that the displaced people are provided with food, water, sanitation and health care until the situation stabilizes sufficiently for them to return home.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

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

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Myanmar IDPs pick up the pieces in Rakhine state

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding across Myanmar's Rakhine state, where some 115,000 people are desperately in need of aid after being displaced during two waves of inter-communal violence in June and October 2012. The displaced, most of them ethnic Rohingya, have sought shelter in temporary relief camps and others remain scattered across the state, living under tight security in their destroyed villages. Conditions are harsh: the camps are overcrowded and some lack even the most basic of sanitation facilities while many of the villages are totally destroyed and running low on water. In one village, more than 32 families were living cheek-by-jowl in just two large tents. The children have no access to education and the newborn and elderly are in a very vulnerable position due to a lack of medical facilities. UNHCR is distributing relief supplies and working with the authorities and partners to improve camp conditions, but international assistance is required.

Myanmar IDPs pick up the pieces in Rakhine state

Living Silence: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

"Living Silence" is a photographic exhibition of one of the world's most enduring refugee crises, by award-winning photographer Saiful Huq Omi.

Bangladesh has hosted refugees for over three decades. Today, 28,000 refugees from Myanmar known as the Rohingya - an ethnic, religious and linguistic minority people - are living in the two official refugee camps in the south-east of Bangladesh. Over half of them are children, many of whom have only ever experienced life in the camps. It is estimated that there are a further 200,000 Rohingya living outside the camps, unable to return to Myanmar where they fear persecution and exploitation.

Like refugees around the world, the Rohingya refugees are survivors. They are living in transience, waiting for the day they can go home in safety and in dignity. Until then, like any other people, they aspire to live a life free from violence and exploitation.

Together with other UN agencies and NGOs, UNHCR provides shelter, water, primary education and health care to refugees from Myanmar in the Nayapara and Kutupalong camps. UNHCR is also working with governments around the world to resettle some of the most vulnerable.

Living Silence: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Climate change and displacement

In the past few years, millions of people have been displaced by natural disasters, most of which are considered to be the direct result of climate change. Sudden weather events, such as Myanmar's Cyclone Nargis in 2008, widespread flooding in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camps in 2006 and the drought that hit Ethiopia in the 1980s, can leave huge numbers of people traumatized and without access to shelter, clean water and basic supplies.

The international community has entrusted UNHCR with responsibility for protecting and assisting people who are forcibly displaced and who cannot return safely home. Although the majority of people displaced by climate change will remain within their own borders, where states have clearly defined responsibilities, additional support may be required.

When called upon to intervene, UNHCR can deploy emergency teams and provide concrete support in terms of registration, documentation, family reunification and the provision of shelter, basic hygiene and nutrition.

Among those who are displaced across borders as a result of climate change, some will be refugees while others may not meet the definition. Nevertheless, many may be in need of protection and assistance.

Climate change and displacement

Myanmar: Olympic Spirit AlivePlay video

Myanmar: Olympic Spirit Alive

The International Olympic Committee and Samsung recently presented sports kits to 20 schools in south-east Myanmar. The lucky children were happy to show off their skills.
By Boat to SafetyPlay video

By Boat to Safety

The recent resurgence in inter-communal violence in western Myanmar, forced hundreds of people to sail to safety on their fishing boats.
Aid To Myanmar Cyclone VictimsPlay video

Aid To Myanmar Cyclone Victims

UNHCR has sent in almost 120 tonnes of aid to help more than 10,000 victims in Myanmar of Cyclone Nargis.