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Myanmar: Violence in Rakhine creates long-term needs

September 11, 2014

Five months after violence disrupted humanitarian operations in Rakhine state, the ICRC has restarted a full range of activities there for the Muslim and ethnic Rakhine communities alike.

"The Muslim and ethnic Rakhine communities are both suffering the long-term effects of violence. Access to essential health care and clean water has been seriously affected, as has the capacity to earn a livelihood," said Enrique Ochoa, head of the ICRC’s office in Sittwe. Since resuming its programmes in May, the organization has been tackling a broad range of problems faced by both communities.

"We are in regular contact with community leaders to help define programmes and tailor them to meet specific needs in a transparent and independent manner," added Mr Ochoa.

The ICRC is carrying out 14 hospital restoration projects in Rakhine designed to enhance health-care infrastructure and services. At the same time, it sponsors the work of local health personnel, including midwives, and contributes to trauma-care training for doctors from various townships. In addition, the ICRC has donated solar-powered refrigerators to support national immunization programmes in the state, and continues to donate medicines and medical consumables to the local ministry of health for use in Sittwe and other township hospitals and mobile clinics.

In northern Rakhine, the ICRC is looking at ways to assist the ministry of health’s existing medical facilities in the Maungdaw and Buthidaung areas.

Working closely with local authorities and community elders, the ICRC has provided seed and fertilizer to small-scale farmers in villages in Sittwe, Pauk-taw, Kyauk-taw and Minbya. Action taken to provide drinking water has benefited over 20,000 displaced people from both communities living in camps and rural areas, while rainwater harvesting systems and ceramic water filters have also been provided. A programme to fence community water storage ponds to avoid contamination by livestock has now been concluded in three townships.

People in three camps with no access to firewood for cooking have received biodegradable fuel sticks made of rice husk. Some 20,000 people received roofing tarpaulins to keep them dry during the wet season. Grants in cash and kind for small business ventures have provided 600 families with a sustainable income. The grants enabled people to buy fishing equipment, livestock, supplies for setting up grocery shops or tricycle taxis, or start small businesses. More than 20,000 people have received this kind of assistance since programmes restarted in May.

Kachin and eastern states

In the north-east of the country, where sporadic fighting still continues despite positive steps in the peace process, the ICRC is focused on supporting health facilities, enhancing services for people with disabilities and generating income streams for displaced families.

Projects to improve health services for both resident and displaced communities started in February in the towns of Laiza, Majayan and Bhamo in Kachin state. Laiza hospital receives comprehensive support through on-the-job training, equipment overhauls and donations of supplies. The ICRC is also upgrading power, water supply, sanitary and medical-waste disposal facilities. In tandem, we are continuing medical training in Kachin and Shan states, boosting the expertise of health personnel in areas such as surgical management techniques and the treatment of weapon injuries.

Plans are under way to build a physical rehabilitation centre at Myitkyina hospital to provide artificial limbs and other services for physically disabled people living in northern Myanmar. The ICRC and the Myanmar Red Cross have started running a mobile repair service for physically disabled people whose devices need repair, improving their access to orthopaedic services across the north and east of Myanmar.

For further information, please contact:

Michael O’Brien, ICRC Yangon, tel: +95 9 420 107 606
Ewan Watson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 33 45 or +41 79 244 64 70

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