Myanmar: Complex Emergency - DREF n° MDRMM008 Operation update n° 1

A. Situation analysis

Description of the crisis

The humanitarian situation in the northern areas of Rakhine State, Myanmar, has deteriorated in recent months following an upsurge of violence. The new wave of violence has led to mass displacement and population movement.

However, until a comprehensive assessment is completed, the total number of people who remain displaced within cannot be determined independently. The northern parts of the three townships of Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Rathedaung – where an estimated 95 percent of the population comprises of Muslim communities – are most affected. UN OCHA has reported that available information at present indicates that an estimated 94,000 people fled their homes to either other parts of northern Rakhine or across the border into Bangladesh.

The new wave of violence followed by attacks by armed militants on three border guard police posts in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships near the north-western border with Bangladesh has been reported in the early hours of 9 October 2016. Per the authorities, nine police and eight attackers were killed in the attacks which triggered a security response from the authorities. Several further clashes occurred in November 2016. As part of the security response, access to some areas, including by humanitarian organizations, has since been denied. Cases of civilian casualties, violence against civilians, civilian arrests and destruction of property have been reported, although they have not been independently verified due to restricted access and limited first-hand information.

It is important to note that the recent events have taken place against a backdrop of decades of protracted tension and violence between Rakhine and Muslim communities in the state. Prior to the October 2016 events, violence had flared up in other parts of Rakhine State in 2012, affecting at least 145,000 people from both Rakhine and Muslim communities, many of whom were left dependent on humanitarian assistance. Since 2014, and until the October events, the situation was relatively stable even though significant humanitarian needs persisted.

The recent events caused widespread fear in both Rakhine and Muslim communities. Some 3,000 Buddhist Rakhine villagers fled to towns. However, UN OCHA has reported that most of the ethnic Rakhine and Mro people who were displaced have returned to their villages, although around 272 Rakhine and Mro people remain displaced in Maungdaw and Buthidaung.

According to UN OCHA, access to 81 village tracts in Buthidaung and Maungdaw, including 17 village tracts in the northern part of Maungdaw, was granted briefly in mid-December 2016 before it was again suspended with immediate effect a few days later. In the most recent update, it is mentioned that five months since the new wave of violence started, there has been an incremental resumption of some services provided by UN agencies and humanitarian organizations in northern areas of Rakhine State although protection activities remain suspended in Maungdaw north and the operating environment remains challenging. Access is being granted for national staff only. These limitations are significantly affecting the quantity, quality and sustainability humanitarian assistance and other services.

The ICRC was provisionally given the greenlight to access the area of the ongoing clearance operations in the northern parts of Maungdaw since mid-November, but authorities continued to invoke security concerns to postpone actual access. The Movement has thus far not yet been able to carry out assessments or to provide assistance to the affected population outside Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships.