UNHCR gears up for humanitarian response in Myanmar

Briefing Notes, 19 June 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 19 June 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Following the sudden escalation of violence some 10 days ago, the situation in Myanmar's Rakhine state remains tense. The efforts of Myanmar authorities to restore law and order are continuing. There are, however, reports of sporadic incidents and violence.

According to initial government estimates, at least 48,000 people have been displaced by the violence that erupted last week. We expect this number to continue to grow as further information becomes available. The destruction of property appears to be widespread. Myanmar authorities indicate that as many as 1,600 houses may have been destroyed in the riots.

As part of the overall UN response to the request from the Myanmar authorities for assistance, UNHCR will provide shelter material and basic aid items such as blankets, mattresses and other essential household items to all communities affected by the violence. At present we can meet the immediate humanitarian needs of some 2000 families with kits containing plastic sheeting, kitchen sets, blankets and mosquito nets. We plan to redeploy our field teams as soon as possible.

An inter-agency rapid needs assessment team, including UNHCR, is scheduled to be deployed to Sittwe today (Tuesday, 19 June). The government is running more than 40 temporary relief camps in six townships in Rakhine state and has asked for the humanitarian assistance for the displaced people in these camps. There are also reports that a number of people in their homes in Maungdaw are in need of food and other humanitarian assistance.

Meanwhile in Bangladesh, we continue to monitor developments along the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh. After a brief lull over the weekend, seven boats carrying 128 persons arrived yesterday from Myanmar.

UNHCR continues its dialogue with the Government of Bangladesh on the management of these arrivals. The Government has however maintained their position of keeping the borders closed. 139 persons were pushed back from Bangladesh by border authorities yesterday.

Since events began to unfold over 10 days ago UNHCR reiterates its readiness to provide assistance and support to the governments and the people of Bangladesh and Myanmar in addressing this evolving humanitarian situation.

For further information on this topic, please contact: