By Robin Gomes
The United Nations has expressed concern that the current crisis in Myanmar is hampering the efforts of humanitarian agencies for the vulnerable groups in the country, especially the internally displaced people (IDP) in the country’s conflict-ridden areas. The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which coordinates the UN’s global emergency response to save lives and protect people in humanitarian crises, expressed its concern in its weekly bulletin on Thursday.
OCHA said the UN and its partners have, for many years, been responding to humanitarian needs caused by conflict and natural disasters in Myanmar. They want to continue their work also under the current circumstances.
Protests hitting essential services, goods
Three weeks after seizing power, the military junta has failed to stop the nation-wide daily protests and a civil disobedience movement, including a strike, calling for the reversal of the 1 February coup and the release of the nation’s elected leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
The crisis has resulted in the shutting down of businesses and services, including banks, interrupting payments and cash withdrawal systems. The price of essential commodities, such as food, construction materials and fuel, has reportedly increased in some areas. OCHA noted that changes in counterpart entities and interlocutors, as well as access issues, have also affected programmes. Many international and national humanitarian actors continue to strive to resume or are resuming their humanitarian and Covid-19-related programmes in camps, displacement sites and villages affected by conflicts.
One million in need of aid
According to Ola Almgren, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, relief agencies are working to resume activities that have been paused in some parts of the country.
According to OCHA, apart from the current crisis, about one million people, hit by conflict and natural disasters, are in need of support and protection. Of these, some 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, which is less than 0.3 percent of the amount needed, has been raised.
As the protests continue, OCHA pointed out, thousands of people have been newly displaced with a surge in civilian casualties, following clashes between government forces and armed insurgent groups in northern Shan state.
Constrained humanitarian access
OCHA said that even before the coup, humanitarian access was constrained, because of security concerns, administrative procedures and travel passes.
Access to parts of Shan and Kayin states 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, the Office said. It reiterated its call for safe and unimpeded access to deliver a timely and principled humanitarian response.