Red Cross responds to inter-communal violence in Myanmar

On the 20th March, Inter-communal violence erupted in the town of Meiktila, around 150 km south of Mandalay in central Myanmar. Hundreds of homes, shops and buildings were destroyed and over 11,000 people were displaced. Over 40 people are reported to have been killed with many more injured in the fighting.

Myanmar Red Cross volunteers have been on the scene providing first aid services and Red Cross ambulances have also been used to transfer more serious cases to local healthcare facilities.

“32 trained Red Cross volunteers have been responding since the unrest began”, said U Nay Oo, of the Meiktila Red Cross Branch.“They have provided hundreds of people with emergency medical support and have also been helping to evacuate families to temporary camps which have been set up in schools, monasteries and the local football stadium”.

The violence is reported to have been precipitated by a quarrel between a Buddhist customer and a Muslim shop owner which then led to clashes that quickly spread to many parts of the town. A state of emergency has since been imposed in 4 townships in Mandalay Region: Meiktila, Tharzi, Mahliang and Wundwin.

To help respond to the immediate humanitarian needs, the Myanmar Red Cross dispatched emergency relief items including family tents, tarpaulins, hygiene kits, jerry cans, blankets and mosquito nets from its warehouses in Yangon and Mandalay. These items are now being distributed in the affected areas.

An emergency ‘Restoring Family Links’ team has also been sent to Meiktila to support families who may have become separated from their loved ones. Over 100 ‘safe and well’ messages have already been facilitated and the team has also helped 16 families to re-establish contact.

The recent violence in Mandalay comes after a series of outbreaks in 2012 in Rakhine State where more than 100,000 people remain displaced. Myanmar Red Cross volunteers continue to work with affected communities in Rakhine State, providing daily safe drinking water, mobile health clinics in camps and temporary shelters for families who have lost their homes.