State Gov’t Requests $21M for IDPs in N. Rakhine

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News Desk:

The Rakhine State government has requested 3.3 billion kyats (US$21 million) from the Union government to establish a shelter for 33,000 locals displaced by conflict in northern Rakhine State, according to regional minister U Win Myint.

Fighting has been ongoing between the Arakan Army and government troops in the area since January, and the number of IDPs has been on the rise since. But with insufficient humanitarian assistance from the state and Union governments for the displaced Rakhine villagers, local civil society groups and respected influential monks from state capital Sittwe on Monday urged the state government to provide aid and proper shelter to the internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Municipal affairs minister for Rakhine State U Win Myint explained that his cabinet submitted a proposal for 21 million kyats in aid in late April. According to him, authorities estimate the total IDP population reached about 33,000 in April.

The authorities had already designated 710 structures to be used to house approximately 33,000 IDPs in six townships, but a recent surge in the number of displaced poses bigger challenges for the state authorities. According to the Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC), the total IDP population has now reached 37,000 and this does not include displaced locals in Chin State’s Paletwa Township which borders Rakhine to the north.

Minister U Win Myint said each structure is designed to have 10 rooms and will facilitate about 10 families. The project also includes the installation of a water supply and sanitation. Minister U Win Myint elaborated that several thousand of the displaced are living in temporary tents in paddy fields belonging to host communities. They will use the lands to establish the IDP camp and pay rental fees to the host community.

As of Tuesday it remains unclear whether the Union government has given the green light to the state cabinet. Minister U Win Myint said that Rakhine’s Border Affairs Minister Col. Phone Tint might know Naypyitaw’s response as he is now acting as chairperson of the state while the Rakhine Chief Minister U Nyi Pu is away from Sittwe.

Sittwe-based Wun Lark Foundation’s U Khaing Kaung San said, “We hope the government will address the IDP shelter issue.”

Relief worker Ko Zaw Zaw Tun from the REC also said that the IDP population is always going up and down. For instance, he said, villagers often temporarily take refuge at a monastery, community hall or school, but then return home when military troops leave their village or if there are no armed clashes. Most of the IDPs in Mrauk-U are staying at monasteries and schools but when the schools resume after summer break, the IDPs will be in trouble.

Displaced locals have been temporarily sheltering in neighboring villages, monasteries and community halls in six townships and mostly receive food from independent local relief groups, said U Khaing Kaung San.

“The living conditions of IDPs, especially in Rathedaung and Buthidaung, are very poor,” he said.

The international relief agency World Food Program (WFP) and the International Crescent and Red Cross (ICRC) have been given limited permission by the military to organize shipments of aid in northern Rakhine while armed clashes continue to occasionally erupted in remote areas as well as along the Yangon-Sittwe highway.

The UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller is scheduled to visit Myanmar from May 9 to 15 and plans to travel to strife-torn northern Rakhine State, as well as Kachin and Shan states, in order observe the “first-hand humanitarian situation”, “the impact of ongoing conflict and to discuss durable solutions for the displaced and vulnerable people living there.”


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