Two senior United Nations officials have called for increased humanitarian assistance and development efforts to meet the needs of all communities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state following a visit there this week.
“Stability and sustainable peace can be achieved in Rakhine state when the needs of all communities are met,” said Haoliang Xu, Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
Rakhine is Myanmar’s second poorest region, with a population of more than three million, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Restrictions on the freedom of movement of hundreds of thousands of people in Rakhine severely compromise their basic rights to food, health, education and livelihoods, leaving them dependent on humanitarian assistance.
In addition, several waves of clashes between Buddhist and Muslim communities, the first of which occurred in June 2012, have affected hundreds of thousands of families in Rakhine.
“We need both to address immediate needs of all vulnerable people and to increase the capacity of the state to provide quality basic services including healthcare, education, water, livelihoods and infrastructure,” said Mr. Xu.
He also observed that “more work is needed to improve relations between different ethnic groups in Rakhine and to find durable solutions for displaced people.”
Both Mr. Xu and OCHA Director of Operations John Ging commended the Government and its partners for their efforts, while stressing that greater humanitarian assistance and development efforts are urgently needed to benefit all vulnerable people in Rakhine.
“It is clear that progress has been made since my last visit one year ago and that is truly impressive given the challenges and setbacks you have faced. However, we must all redouble our efforts to do more,” said Mr. Ging.
“The humanitarian situation is still unacceptably dire for far too many people, but thanks to the outstanding efforts of aid organisations the humanitarian situation is now stabilizing.”
During the two-day visit, the officials saw the positive results of inter-communal dialogue, in the construction of new roads and bridges to improve economic activity between communities.
“These projects give us a real basis for hope but we must not underestimate the challenges ahead, one of the most critical being a just and equitable resolution to the citizenship issue,” said Mr. Ging.
During the two-day visit to Rakhine that began on Monday, Mr. Xu and Mr. Ging visited camps in Sittwe and Pauk Taw where the UN and international organizations are providing humanitarian assistance, as well as villages in Minbya and Sittwe where UNDP is working with communities to strengthen social cohesion and improve basic services.
Yesterday, they joined government officials to inaugurate construction work of a bridge that will connect four villages to the Rakhine capital, supported by UNDP and the state government. Today, the two UN officials were scheduled to hold high-level meetings in Nay Pyi Taw, including with Vice President U Sai Mauk Kham.