Rakhine State, located in western Myanmar, is home to roughly 3.2 million people. Compared to the rest of the country, Rakhine State is relatively underdeveloped. The majority of the population are Buddhists from the Rakhine ethnic group; in addition, nearly three in ten people are Muslim.
In 2012, two waves of inter-communal violence between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslims in Rakhine State left dozens dead and tens of thousands of people displaced. As of the beginning of 2017, about 121,000 people remain displaced, most of whom live in Sittwe Township.
To reduce the chances of further violence, the Government segregated the two communities in Sittwe Township in 2012, and cordoned off a rural area on the outskirts of Sittwe for Muslims who were displaced. Movement restrictions for these internally displaced people remain in place as of June 2017. Meanwhile, many Rakhine who were displaced were settled in four camps in Sittwe Town. In 2015, these sites were either relocated, or their residents were locally integrated and provided with housing.
In order to obtain more detailed information on this displacement situation, the Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster (CCCM), the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) conducted a profiling exercise on internally displaced persons in Sittwe, with the support of the Rakhine State Government.
The profiling exercise was conducted to address the need for up-to-date information on the situation faced by people displaced by the 2012 crisis in Sittwe Township. The specific objectives of the exercise were to:
• Update population figures for the Sittwe rural camps, based on anonymous data disaggregated by age, sex, location, place of origin and diversity;
• Analyse the displacement history of the target population;
• Analyse the current situation of target populations, including their socio-economic situation, living conditions, and protection concerns;
• Develop a better understanding of the vulnerability, capacities, coping mechanisms, and future intentions and perceptions of target populations;
• Provide a dataset available to the Government, and humanitarian and development community; and • Develop a methodology and data collection tools that could be replicated in other Rakhine townships with displaced populations.
The profiling exercise covered four target populations in Sittwe Township: all four Rakhine relocated sites and all 14 Muslim camps, as well as two host communities: Rakhine villages and Muslim villages.
A desk review and informant interviews on the displacement situation in Sittwe Township guided the development and implementation phases of the exercise. In addition to informal interviews with relevant stakeholders, the exercise reviewed over 50 reports, surveys, needs assessments, and other documents on displacement in Myanmar.
An enumeration was conducted, which found that 17,618 households were living in the Muslim camps. The short enumeration questionnaire provided basic information about the Muslim camp population and informed the sampling strategy. This was followed by 4,662 household surveys administered to a sample of the target populations, to gain more in-depth information on their situation. The surveys were conducted using mobile devices by Government enumerators in Rakhine areas and camp management agency staff in Muslim areas.
The exercise also convened 15 focus group discussions to provide additional information on several topics covered by the household survey, such as intra- and inter-communal relations, social cohesion, and future intentions and perceptions. Mapping exercises were conducted in cases where information was lacking on the number of makeshift shelters in certain camps. This was important for guiding data collection, and ensuring that all households were covered in the enumeration.
To ensure community buy-in for the profiling exercise, a large-scale community awareness raising campaign was conducted before the enumeration and household survey took place.
Limitations of the profiling exercise include the following: the exercise only provided updated population figures for the Muslim camps in rural Sittwe, not the other population groups; it was conducted in the cold dry season, when food security indicators are generally higher; and information was not collected on respondents’ gender or age. The findings cannot be used as a proxy for the needs or living conditions of other Muslims, displaced or non-displaced, in Rakhine State.
WHO IS IN THE CAMPS?
Based on the enumeration, there were 17,618 households, or 97,484 people, living in 14 camps in rural Sittwe in January 2017. From the household surveys administered to a representative sample of this population, 94 per cent of people living in camps left their place of origin in 2012. Furthermore, 98 per cent of households had been in camps for more than three years, and more than half had been there for four-and-a-half years.
Among Rakhines, more than 85 per cent of adults were reported to be literate. More than 95 per cent of Rakhines surveyed spoke the Myanmar language, while children aged 6 to 9 years from Rakhine relocated sites were less likely to speak Myanmar.
Younger Muslims were less likely to be able to speak the Rakhine or Myanmar languages.
In Muslim camps, there is a strong correlation between speaking Rakhine and having more stable job opportunities. However, Muslims often reported having few opportunities to learn or practice these languages.
School attendance among Rakhine children was high, at over 94 per cent for primary and middle school-aged girls and boys. It was lower for high school-aged girls and boys, at 80 per cent in Rakhine villages and 55 per cent in Rakhine relocated sites. In Muslim camps, over 80 per cent of primary school-aged girls and boys were attending school or temporary learning spaces.
School attendance was lowest in Muslim villages, with less than two-thirds of primary school-aged boys and girls attending school.
As of February 2017, the Government and humanitarian partners had provided 1,827 temporary shelters in the Sittwe rural camps. 70,573 people were living in eight-unit temporary shelters (72 per cent), 10,313 people in 10-unit temporary shelters (11 per cent), 16,404 people in makeshift shelters (17 per cent), and 273 were living in wooden or concrete housing (0.3 per cent). Temporary shelters have deteriorated over the years, and in May 2017, 1,440 shelter units (housing roughly 8,000 people) fully collapsed due to Cyclone Mora.
WATER and SANITATION
As of April 2017, 4,649 latrines were maintained in the Muslim camps. Overall, there is an average of one latrine for 21 people in the Muslim camps. This ratio is highest in Thae Chaung (one latrine for 63 people), followed by Dar Paing (28 people) and Say Tha Mar Gyi (22 people).
SPHERE standards recommend a maximum of 20 people per latrine.
Drinking water in the Muslim camps comes from shallow boreholes (generally six to ten metres deep), fitted with hand pumps. All the camps in the Sittwe rural area with the exception of Thae Chaung meet the SPHERE standard, which indicates that there should be at least 1 hand pump for every 192 people.
Healthcare was a key expense for both Muslim and Rakhine households, and was one of the main reasons households took out loans. The Government provides the highest-level health facilities in the Sittwe rural camp area, while humanitarian partners run additional clinics in most camps. More than three-quarters of households that experienced a serious health issue in the past six months sought healthcare.
Eight hundred women (comprising roughly 30 per cent of pregnant women) in Muslim camps reported having had serious pregnancy-related issues in the past six months. Less than 10 per cent of Muslim children under the age of five had birth certificates, compared with two-thirds of Rakhine children of the same age.
Eighty-five per cent of working-aged Rakhine males were participating in the labour force, compared to 74 per cent among males in Muslim villages and 66 per cent in Muslim camps.
Approximately 44 per cent of work-aged Rakhine females were participating in the labour force, compared to less than 15 per cent of Muslim females.
For all target populations, the proportion of people in salaried employment was significantly lower than the national average. Muslims were in salaried employment at a rate less than half the national average. Less than ten per cent of all target populations owned businesses; the rate was lowest among Muslim camp households, at three per cent. However, 22 per cent of Muslim camp households reported having owned a business or trade stall prior to displacement.
Half the households in the Muslim camps had an average income of 25,000 MMK per month or less, compared with 35,000 MMK for Muslim villages, 75,000 MMK for Rakhine villages, and 100,000 MMK for Rakhine relocated sites. The highest monthly expense across all population groups was food, followed by fuel and healthcare.
Sixty-seven per cent of households in Rakhine villages and 65 per cent in Rakhine relocated sites were indebted, nearly double the national average of 35 per cent. The rate of indebtedness was even higher for Muslim villages and camps, at 84 per cent.
FOOD SECURITY and COPING MECHANISMS
Over 95 per cent of Rakhine households were found to have acceptable levels of food consumption, compared with 67 per cent of households in Muslim villages and 73 per cent in Muslim camps. The majority of people living in the Muslim camps and Rakhine relocated sites rely on food distributions as their main source of food. The main source of food distributions are the World Food Programme (WFP) through partners, followed by Myanmar Resource Foundation and private donations.
Almost three-quarters (73%) of Muslim groups used negative coping mechanisms to meet basic expenses, such as borrowing money, selling nonfood item that were distributed, and selling food.
Forty-five per cent of Rakhine groups reported using negative coping mechanisms.
The most common reason that people moved from their houses for more than a week was for work opportunities, followed by healthcare and insufficient food (in the Muslim camps). Rakhine tended to move elsewhere in Myanmar, or abroad, whereas those who left Muslim camps tended to move elsewhere in the local area.
The relatively small sample means that findings on movement are not statistically representative.
However, they are included to give a rough indication and to guide future research.
COMMUNITY RELATIONS and VULNERABILITY
Relations within all target communities were perceived to be generally positive. However, sources of tensions in the Muslim camps included: living in close proximity to each other; urban/rural cultural differences; deteriorating infrastructure in the camps; and socio-economic divisions.
There were high levels of interaction between people in Muslim camps and villages, with approximately two-thirds of households having some form of interaction in the past week.
While interaction was reported to be generally collaborative and positive, some sources of tension included: camps being located on host village farming land; less land available for breeding animals; and increased demand for limited firewood.
Among the Rakhine, proximity to Muslim settlements was cited as a source of anxiety.
Less than one per cent of Rakhine households surveyed had any interactions with Muslims in the past week.
SELF-IDENTIFIED PRIORITY NEEDS
Food was the most frequently cited top noncash priority need across all populations. Among the Muslim groups and the Rakhine relocated sites, more than half of respondents rated food as their first need, as well as 42 per cent of respondents from Rakhine villages. After food, health services and job opportunities, education and shelter/housing assistance were the most frequently cited priority needs across all target populations.
The potential solutions to internal displacement are to return to the place of origin, to integrate into the local areas where people initially sought refuge, or to resettle in another location. Ending displacement must be carried out only after consultation with affected communities, and must be conducted in a way that respects the dignity, safety, and desires of displaced persons.
The vast majority of those living in Muslim camps – 94 per cent – said they would prefer to live in their pre-2012 place of origin. The main reasons they cited for wanting to return were better access to education, job opportunities, reconnecting with pre-displacement social networks, better access to healthcare, and safer, more reliable housing. In order to return, more than half of respondents said they would first need housing and a plot of land there. Other prerequisites for return included access to employment opportunities and peaceful coexistence with the local community.
This may be hampered by the very low levels of interaction between Rakhine and Muslim populations. Although the two communities frequently interacted before the 2012 crisis, the profiling exercise found that less than 1 per cent of Rakhine households had interacted with Muslims in the past week, and only 10 to 13 per cent of Muslim households had interacted with Rakhines. This points to a need for a sustained effort to reduce tensions and improve intercommunal relations.
ACCESS TO FURTHER DATA
Users can manipulate the data further on the online DART platform available at http://www.dart.jips.org/ Individuals and organisations can also apply for access to the raw data through UNHCR and DRC Myanmar.