Myanmar: Humanitarian Bulletin, Issue 3 | July - September 2016

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 30 Sep 2016

Highlights

  • More than 200 people killed or injured by landmines since the start of 2015.

  • Approx. half a million people temporarily displaced by annual floods.

  • Earthquake preparedness stepped-up in Yangon.

  • New restrictions on access in Kachin and Shan States.

  • The benefits of shifting to cash assistance in Myanmar.

  • NGOs supported through Myanmar Humanitarian Fund.

  • New online platform for tracking World Humanitarian Summit commitments.

The scourge of landmines: 51 killed since 2015

Mine risk education and clearance critical to preventing civilian casualties

Since the start of 2015, 202 people have been killed or injured by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) across Myanmar according to figures collated by the country’s Mine Risk Working Group. Of the 51 people who have died, 21 were children. It is a legacy of decades of conflict and an increasing priority for the humanitarian community as it searches for durable solutions for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

34 year old U Aike Lu was among this year’s landmine victims. He was travelling home after harvesting tea leaves north-west of Kyaukme Town, in northern Shan when he stepped on a mine. With the help of HALO Trust and its partners, Ta'ang Students and Youth Organization (TSYU) and Kham Ku Center for Study and Development (KKCSD), he was rushed to hospital for major surgery. He lost the toes on his left foot but survived after spending a month in hospital recovering.

For the past year, the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund has been collaborating with the HALO Trust and its partners in northern Shan to provide support to civilian landmine victims by helping with their immediate evacuation, medical care and ongoing needs. These vital funds help relieve the financial burden of medical costs placed on families who otherwise might not be able to afford them.

To support coordinated work on mine risk education and response in affected areas, the national Mine Risk Working Group was established in 2012 it is co-chaired by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and UNICEF. It includes 12 ministries and 28 international and national organizations. State-level working groups have also been established in Kachin, Kayah, Shan and Kayin States.

Myanmar remains one of a handful of countries not to sign the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. The continued use of landmines in conflict zones poses an enormous danger to civilians, especially IDPs. A 2015 report by the Danish Demining Group and the Danish Refugee Council estimates that approximately 50 percent of the recorded victims of landmines are IDPs.

“We call on all parties to stop the use of landmines and explosive weapons, and to protect schools, health facilities and other places used by children and civilians from any military action,” said Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar.

In a bid to address the needs of people injured by Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), UNICEF and the Department of Social Welfare are supporting a new Victims Assistance Center opened in Kawkareik in Kayin State run by Handicap International and the Myanmar Physically Handicapped Association. It provides access to essential social services including psychosocial support and referral to rehabilitation services. It promotes the rights of ERW/Landmine survivors and children with disabilities.

A survey conducted in 2014 highlighted an urgent need to scale-up mine risk education programming with the vast majority of children revealing they did not know how to protect themselves from landmines or know the signs that landmines might be present in an area. In response, the sector has designed a common Mine Risk Education (MRE) Toolkit which has been endorsed by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. It is now being rolled out across affected parts of the country with clear messaging available in four local languages.

In the longer-term, demining will be critical for the return, relocation or resettlement of displaced people in conflict areas. Earlier this year, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Ms Yanghee Lee, noted that many IDPs she spoke to remained afraid to return to their villages, partly due to the risk posed by landmines. She praised the limited demining efforts reported by the Ministry of Defence in a small area of Kayin State but said a much greater effort is needed. The Mine Risk Working Group says scaling-up this work is possible now.

"De-mining work need not wait until the peace process is complete in order to begin. As long as areas are currently conflict-free, preparatory work such as fencing and surveys can start immediately," Bertrand Bainvel said.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

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