Muslim-Buddhist clashes in Myanmar's led to 75,000 displaced people: UNHCR

Bassem Aly, Saturday 6 Oct 2012

People continue to flee their homes in Myanmar's Rakhine state, months after sectarian violence, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR)says

Ethnic Rakhine people get water from a firefighter truck to extinguish fire set to their houses during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe (Photo: Reuters)

There are currently some 75,0000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state following four months of ethnic violence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced during a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva published Friday on its website.

Figures provided by local authorities showed the IDPs are mostly located in and around the townships of Sittwe, Kyauk Taw and Maungdaw amid expectations of an increase in the number of displaced civilians.

Nevertheless, the UNHCR mentioned in a report on its website that some returns have been recorded due to a “fragile calm” in the security situation. For instance, since June many displaced people whose house remains intact in Sittwe town have gone home.

The report added that the situation is still “tense,” as movement is still restricted in parts of Rakhine state, preventing some villagers from going to work, accessing markets, food supplies, health services and education. The other, yet poor, alternative is remaining at the IDP camps, which provide food and medical assistance within the limits of their capabilities.

“Together with our humanitarian partners, UNHCR has been advocating for greater humanitarian access and for support to be provided to these villages. We hope that by delivering aid in places of origin, humanitarian agencies can help to prevent further displacement and make interventions that can facilitate the eventual return of IDPs,” the UN refugee agency said.

The report brought reference to its efforts in providing relief supplies for some 54,000 people in IDP sites. These supplies include plastic sheets, sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets and kitchen sets, as well as supporting the construction of emergency temporary shelters that can house about 10,500 people.

Meanwhile, other humanitarian bodies are working to support the delivery of basic assistance in these government-run IDP camps, making sure that the displaced people are provided with food, water, sanitation and health care until the situation stabilizes sufficiently for them to return home.

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