UNICEF Myanmar Humanitarian Situation Report #8 (August 2019)
• The UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator a.i., and heads of UNICEF, OCHA, and UNFPA visited Rakhine State from 19 to 21 August 2019 looking at both older, predominantly Rohingya IDP camps and camps for newly displaced.
• UNICEF has carried out 14 humanitarian assistance missions in Rathedaung and Buthidaung Townships in Rakhine State, reaching a total of 5,569 displaced and host community members, including an estimated 2,200 children.
• Distribution of Essential Learning Packages (ELP) and School Kits for crisis-affected children and schools started on 13 August, reaching nearly 9,500 children in central and northern Rakhine State.
• In Kayin and Mon States, UNICEF supported the Government of Myanmar to support more than 16,000 people affected by floods and landslides in August through provision of emergency hygiene supplies including kits and bleaching powder.
• On 31 August, the Myanmar military extended the unilateral ceasefire in five regions for an additional 21 days.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
Kachin and Shan States
In Kachin State, approximately 6,385 internal displaced persons (IDPs) have returned to their areas of origin in search of durable solutions since 2014; and the Government has plans to return an additional 5,400 people in Mansi townships.
However, with renewed fighting, limited services in areas of return, and the high level of landmine and unexploded ordinance contamination, resuming rural livelihoods remains a challenge. The total number of displaced persons in Kachin State has not changed significantly, remaining around 97,600 at 136 camps or camp like settings with 39,800 people—41 percent—in non-government-controlled areas. All of the 22,805 people displaced by floods in various areas of Kachin State during the month of July returned home by mid-August as flood waters receded.
On 31 August, the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, extended the unilateral ceasefire in five regions—which includes Kachin and Shan States—for an additional 21 days. The ceasefire, initially declared in December 2018, has been extended multiple times since; this is the shortest extension to date. The announcement came amidst fighting in Shan State, however fighting in Kachin State is rarely noted though there is an increase military presence, a number of military checkpoints—particularly increased security measures on the Myitkyina-Bhamo Road, and humanitarian movements remain restricted.
In August, the security situation in northern Shan State deteriorated after an attack on several locations near Pyin Oo Lwin in Mandalay Region. The attack, by the three “Northern Alliance” which includes the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and Ta’ang National Liberation Army, killed 14 people including two civilians.
Subsequent fighting in multiple townships resulted in the displacement of approximately 8,000 people to monasteries, churches, and schools of whom 2,000 remain displaced. Fighting also resulted in a mortar shells landing in Maw Heit village in Kutkai township killing five civilians including four children. The Government and Three Alliance group met for peace talks on 31 August with the National Reconciliation and Peace Center. Talks are expected to continue in September.
Clashes between the Tatmadaw and Arakan Army continue in both central and northern Rakhine State and an estimated 30,000 people remain displaced. In northern Rakhine state, this includes an estimated 3,300 children out of 9,000 IDPs.
In northern Rakhine State in particular, the number of IDPs is a significant increase—up 87 percent—from the number of displaced in July. Movements remain fluid and difficult to predict, with frequent reports of new arrivals at some displacement sites as well as returns in other areas. Despite needs on the ground and available response capacity, access approvals remain unpredictable, with timebound authorizations received for specific activities and on a location-bylocation basis. The situation for displaced and host communities is becoming more difficult as people have less access to markets and livelihoods (cultivation, fishing, firewood collection etc.) and coping capacities are eroding. In some areas, food insecurity is becoming a major concern as humanitarian actors are unable to access communities and food assistance provided by the Rakhine State Government is insufficient to meet all needs. In almost all focus group discussions UNICEF and partners have held, food and shelter are reported as the most pressing concerns.
The Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator a.i., Knut Ostby, UNICEF Representative, June Kunugi, UNFPA Representative, Ramanathan Balakrishnan and OCHA Head of Office, Marie Spaak, visited Rakhine State from 19 to 21 August 2019. The mission was an opportunity to visit IDP sites, to engage government interlocutors, and to meet with humanitarian organizations facing an increasingly challenging and restrictive operating environment. The team visited two IDP sites: Ohn Taw Gyi South near Sittwe, and War Taung IDP camp in Kyauktaw, the former a longstanding camp for Rohingya Muslims and the latter a newly displaced camp of ethnic Mro. A request to visit Nidin IDP site, which has been declared “closed” by the Government, was denied on security grounds.