As international NGOs supporting communities throughout Rakhine State, we express our deep concern with the continued fighting between the Myanmar Security and the Arakan Army Forces. This conflict is causing civilian casualties, displacing communities, and worsening the already precarious humanitarian situation in central and northern Rakhine State. Echoing our previous statement from January 2019, we urge all parties to the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians in compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law.
Compounding the impact of conflict and displacement on communities, since January 10, 2019, the Government of Myanmar has imposed restrictions on the access of humanitarian and development agencies in five key townships (Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun, Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Rathedaung in Rakhine State). Newly imposed restrictions are also affecting access to rural areas in Mrauk U township.
At least 95,000 people living in these conflict affected areas, are no longer able to access a number of basic and essential services. Health care services, education and access to clean water have all been jeopardized. Livelihood programmes, agricultural support and other development efforts have also been suspended, impacting the food security and wellbeing of these communities. While some relief activities targeting newly displaced populations have been permitted to proceed, significant gaps remain.
We acknowledge the Government’s primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of humanitarian and development actors. However, the differences in the security situation across Rakhine State necessitates a differentiated approach – one that ensures access to locations not directly impacted by fighting and recent security incidents. A blanket security approach for entire townships deprives populations in need of assistance and basic services.
Local and international organizations should be granted rapid, unfettered and sustained access to all affected populations to independently assess needs and provide comprehensive assistance and protection to all communities in accordance with international humanitarian principles.