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Food aid slow to reach Rakhine refugee camps

A woman and her children carry their belongings in Ohn Taw Gyi refugee camp near Sittwe in Rakhine State, Myanmar, May 15, 2013. Photo: Nyein Chan Naing/EPA

By Hein Ko Soe
January 30, 2015

January food aid deliveries to several refugee camps in Rakhine State have been delayed by weeks, internal refugees in camps in Ohn Taw Gyi, Myebon and Sittwe told Mizzima on January 29. 

Internally displaced people in the camps that house people who fled the State’s communal violence in 2012 told Mizzima that food normally delivered at the beginning of the month was delayed by two to three weeks. The local authorities, however, say there has been little or no delay. 

A refugee in Ohn Taw Gyi refugee camp, speaking to Mizzima on January 29, said that in the past delivery delays were at most 10 days. 

“As for this month, we received the food only on [January] 25. And we haven’t got cooking oil until now. As for previous months, we received the food on the first or second day of the month. We had to buy rice due to the delay, which is very inconvenient,” he said. 

A female refugee in another camp said they received food deliveries on January 15. She said that despite the cold weather, they have so far not received blankets, although some refugees were able to use blankets donated in December 2013.

But toothpaste and soap have been provided often to the camps, she said.

Rakhine State Information Committee Secretary U Win Myaing said that under the arrangement of the Union government, Rakhine State government regularly provides food to the refugee camps and there was no serious delay.

“We have already given the camps food. Sometimes the World Food Programme rechecks the food. That may be the reason why there are delays,” he said.

U Win Myaing said that they would continue providing rice, cooking oil, beans and salt to the refugee camps regularly every month.

Speaking on behalf of Sakyoegya refugee camp, State MP U Phoe Min (Rakhine State Hluttaw, Rakhine National Party, Yathaydaung Constituency 2) said the camp only received food on January 20. He said they received just beans and rice, and just one litre of cooking oil per three people.

Following the communal violence and destruction of property in Rakhine State in 2012, people from both the Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities fled to camps. Currently, estimates suggest there are about 20,000 Buddhist Rakhine refugees and 140,000 Rohingya refugees in 15 refugee camps in the state.

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