UN official raises concern over Myanmar’s dire humanitarian situation

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A top UN official has expressed concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Myanmar, which has worsened since the February 1 military takeover.

In a statement, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said that across Myanmar, there were now more than 3 million people in need of life-saving assistance because of growing conflict and insecurity, Covid-19 and a failing economy, Xinhua news agency.

Without an end to violence and a peaceful resolution of Myanmar’s crisis, this number will only rise, he warned.

Since the coup, hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes due to violence across the country, and 223,000 people remain internally displaced, and this includes 165,000 in the southeast of the country and is on top of a significant population of people who were already displaced in Rakhine, Chin, Shan and Kachin states prior to the takeover, he said.

Long-term displacement remains unresolved, with 144,000 Rohingya people still confined to camps and camp-like settings in Rakhine, many since their displacement in 2012, and more than 105,000 people displaced in Kachin and Shan, many for years, he said.

“I am also increasingly concerned about reports of rising levels of food insecurity in and around urban areas, including in Yangon and Mandalay.”

In recent weeks, the situation in the northwest of the country has become extremely concerning, with an escalation in hostilities between the Myanmar armed forces and the Chinland Defence Force in Chin state, and with the People’s Defence Forces in Magway and Sagaing regions, according to the official.

More than 37,000 people, including women and children, have been newly displaced, and more than 160 homes have been burned, including churches and the offices of a humanitarian organisation, he said, adding that attacks directed against civilians and civilian infrastructure, including humanitarian workers and facilities, are clearly prohibited under international humanitarian law and must stop immediately.

Humanitarian access to many people in desperate need across the country remains extremely limited due to bureaucratic impediments put in place by the armed forces, he said, calling on the Myanmar armed forces and all other parties to facilitate safe, rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access.

Griffiths also called on the international community to fund the humanitarian response.

Less than half of the $385 million required under the humanitarian response plan and interim emergency response plan launched after the military takeover has been received, according to UN figures.

“The world is watching. I urge all parties to fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians, ensure civilians can freely move toward safety when needed, and allow humanitarian assistance to be provided to those in need, including those being forced to flee the violence,” he said.

–IANS

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