CHANGES IN CONTEXT
The first half of 2018 has seen increased fighting between the military (Tatmadaw) and different ethnic armed groups in Kachin and northern Shan states, including conflicts in or near civilian areas. This has resulted in the death of more than 20 civilians and (re)displacement of approximately 20,000 civilians since the beginning of the year.
While over half of these people have since been able to return to their homes, protection of civilians remains a serious concern, including for pregnant women, the elderly, children and people with disabilities, who may remain trapped in the conflict affected areas. Across Kachin and northern Shan, over 105,000 people remain displaced as a result of the armed conflict that re-started in 2011, with more than 40 per cent of the displaced still located in areas beyond Government control.
The protracted nature of conflict and displacement, compounded by limited access to essential assistance and protection, is having a major impact not only on displaced people but also on the host communities.
Against the backdrop of worsening security, humanitarian partners—national and international—have been facing increasing challenges in accessing affected people. The United Nations has not been permitted by the Government to deliver assistance to people in need in areas beyond Government control since June 2016. While national partners continue to have some limited and unpredictable access to areas beyond Government control, the UN and nearly all international NGOs cannot monitor or support them in their activities. Access to areas within government control has also dramatically declined with permissions for international staff only granted to main towns, effectively cutting-off access to most displaced people who reside outside the main town centres. Humanitarian access constraints continue to largely undermine the quantity, quality and sustainability of assistance and services provided to IDPs, further exhausting their coping mechanisms after seven years of displacement. Access constraints also have a serious impact on the protection and welfare of vulnerable conflict-affected people. This includes women and girls who are at increased risk of gender-based violence, trafficking and other protection concerns.
In Rakhine State, approximately 128,000 stateless Muslims - most of whom self-identify as "Rohingya" remain in IDP camps or camp-like settings as a result of the inter-communal violence in 2012. Prolonged displacement, compounded by ongoing movement restrictions that constrain access to essential services, including formal education, healthcare and livelihoods, continues to cause increased vulnerability and a high level of dependency on humanitarian assistance. Shelters and other facilities in IDP camps were originally constructed in 2012-13 as a temporary measure and now require urgent maintenance or repairs before the end of 2018. Most of the IDPs are living in undignified, over-crowded long-houses, with inadequate privacy which creates a lot of additional stress and risk for families and communities. In an effort to improve overall living conditions in camps, partners jointly developed a camp improvements plan, which identifies priority activities to be implemented before the end of 2018. This plan is to be implemented in parallel with ongoing efforts to advocate for durable solutions for IDPs, including freedom of movement and access to services and livelihoods.
In the northern part of Rakhine State, humanitarian access to respond to the needs of affected communities remains inadequate for the UN and INGOs. Access for humanitarian actors has improved in the central part of Rakhine in recent months. However, bureaucratic restrictions on humanitarian access remains challenging for aid workers to meet the needs of displaced people and, in particular, rapidly respond to emergencies and new needs during the monsoon and cyclone seasons.
As of June 2018, approximately 708,000 people had fled across the border to Bangladesh from northern Rakhine since 25 August, according to the UN in Bangladesh. People continue to leave, with more than 11,000 people crossing the border in 2018. To date, there have not yet been any large-scale returns of refugees from Bangladesh under a bilateral repatriation agreement signed last November. In June, UNHCR and UNDP signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government to support the creation of conditions for the return of refugees from Bangladesh. This MoU is a first and necessary step to establish a framework for cooperation between the UN and the Government aimed at creating conducive conditions for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh and for helping to create improved and resilient livelihoods for all communities living in Rakhine State. The agreement will provide a framework for UNHCR and UNDP to be given access to Rakhine State, including to refugees’ places of origin and areas of potential return that has not been permitted since violence broke out in August 2017. The MoU will also allow the two UN agencies to carry out needs assessments in affected communities and strengthen the capacity of local authorities to support the voluntary repatriation process.
On 29-30 May, a tropical storm made landfall on the coast of Rakhine State, bringing strong winds and heavy rains to at least nine states and regions in Myanmar. In Rakhine State, the storm damaged almost 200 houses and 14 schools in seven townships across central and southern areas of the state, according to the Government. It has also been reported that three people were killed in Manaung.
Camp Management Agencies report only minimal impacts in IDP sites with mainly small-scale damage and leakage through longhouse roofs during the height of the storm.
In June, strong winds and heavy rains caused flooding in Ayeyawaddy, Magway, Bago, Sagaing regions and Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan states. According to the Government’s Department of Disaster Management (DDM), 8,000 houses have been damaged or inundated, some 23,500 people have been temporarily evacuated, 12,000 acres of farmland have been damaged, and 11 people have died due to floods and landslides.
According to DDM, Magway is the most affected region with five people reportedly killed and more than 4,000 people evacuated to temporary locations. In Mon State, some 3,800 people were temporarily evacuated due to flooding. On 17 June, the Union Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and the Chief Minister of Mon State visited flood-affected areas in Mon State and provided assistance including food and cash to affected families. The Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) assisted flood-affected people with non-food items, water and sanitation items, and other relief items in coordination with Township Disaster Management Committees.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.