The political unrest in Myanmar has impacted the ability of humanitarians to respond to the needs of vulnerable communities, including internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country’s conflict-affected areas, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Thursday.
Factors such as closure of banks, interruptions to payments and cash withdrawal systems, and reported increase in price of basic commodities like food and fuel in some areas, have affected relief efforts, according to a bulletin issued by the Office. Changes in counterpart entities and interlocutors, as well as access issues have also affected programmes.
#Myanmar humanitarian update🇲🇲@UNinMyanmar and partners commit to continue humanitarian response, despite impact on operations. Meanwhile, clashes in northern #Shan displace thousands and there are reports of spike in casualties.— OCHA Myanmar (@ochamyanmar) February 26, 2021
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Relief actors are working to resume activities that have been paused in some parts of the country and the humanitarian community is committed to stay and deliver support to those in need, the bulletin noted, citing the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator.
“The UN and its partners have, for many years, been responding to humanitarian needs caused by conflict and natural disasters in Myanmar. It is our absolute intention to continue this work also under the current circumstances”, Ola Almgren said earlier this month.
According to OCHA, separate from the political strife, about one million people – affected by conflict and natural disasters – are in need of support and protection. Of that number, about 945,000 have been targeted for assistance through 2021, as outlined in a $276.5 million Humanitarian Response Plan, launched in January.
However, only $693,000 – less than 0.3 per cent of the amount needed – has been raised.
Humanitarian access ‘remains constrained’
The Office said that humanitarian access, which was already challenging before the military takeover on 1 February, “remains constrained” due to safety concerns and administrative procedures, such as travel authorizations.
Access to parts of Shan, Kayin and Bago region have been affected due to clashes, while at least a third of the displacement sites and half of the host communities in Rakhine state cannot be reached due to insecurity, OCHA added, reiterating the importance of safe and unimpeded access to deliver a timely and principled humanitarian response.
‘Deep concerns’ over increasing detentions
Also on Thursday, Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, voiced “deep concerns” over an increasing number of people held in detention in Myanmar, and called for their immediate release.
At least 150 people are reported to have been arrested in protests in capital Nay Pyi Taw on 22 February, he said at a regular press briefing at the UN Headquarters, in New York.
“The UN team is currently tracking more than 900 political and state officials, activists and civil society members – including journalists, monks and students – now being detained. And of course, we call for their immediate release”, he added.
Mass protests have grown steadily across Myanmar since the military takeover, which followed escalating tensions between the government and the military over the November 2020 elections, which were won by Ms. Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD).
Special Envoy to brief General Assembly
Mr. Dujarric also announced that the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar will be briefing an informal meeting of General Assembly on Friday, which is expected to start at 10 am (EST; GMT-5).
The informal meeting follows a request from a group of Member States, according to Brenden Varma, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.