Refugee camps in Rakhine state in dire need of help
|A child at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Sittwe, capital of Myanmar's western Rakhine state. (Photo: AFP/Soe Than WIN)|
By May Wong
March 25, 2014
United Nations representatives have observed improvements in the refugee camps in various parts of Myanmar's Rakhine state. But residents say the camps are still in dire need of fuel and medical care.
RAKHINE: United Nations representatives have observed improvements in the refugee camps in various parts of Myanmar's Rakhine state.
Rohingya children living in camps for internally displaced people in Rakhine now have better shelter and education.
But they say the camps are still in dire need of fuel and medical care.
Maung Hla Myint, a resident at the Rohingya and Internally Displaced Persons camp, said: "We are refugees. We're not happy to stay here.
“We hope that the authorities can satisfy our desire to return home. There are a lot of difficulties here."
Major General Maung Maung Ohn, the deputy borders affairs minister and secretary, said: “They requested for bigger rooms, cooking wood and schools. We will cooperate with the UNDP and UNHCR.
“The government has the proper funding and if necessary we'll use that for both Begali and Rakhine IDP camps.”
Thousands of residents have been living at the camp for at least a year, and their numbers are growing.
The growing number of residents has caused additional problems, such as insufficient food supply and inadequate healthcare.
And without any jobs, it is hard for the camp’s residents to think about their future.
The Rohingyas are not allowed to leave the camp grounds to look for work.
The Myanmar government said it is for their own protection, as the ethnic Rakhine people do not welcome them.
But UN representatives who visited the camps hope this will change soon.
Bertrand Bainvel, representative of the UN Children’s Fund and the UN Delegation team leader, said: “(We hope the Rohingyas will be allowed to work) so that they can access livelihoods, get access to income and reduce their dependency on aid.
“Living in camps is not conducive to people, and it also creates additional tension on the ground since they require a lot of resources which could be invested somewhere else.”
The UN assistance has been welcomed by both the government and residents, but some point out that the UN needs to be more mindful of the cultural and ethnic sensitivities in Rakhine.
Major General Maung Maung Ohn said: “Even though they're doing a good job, their assistance is not meeting the expectations of the people. That's why there's a problem.
“In the future, if they conduct their activities by keeping in mind the feelings of the locals, their activities will be successful.”
The UN says it will work on the issue together with international non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
It adds that it hopes to work with the government to develop a concrete plan to better assist camp residents.