World Refugee Day 2013 Order of Malta - Permanent Observer Mission


World Refugee Day 2013

Life in the refugee camps under precarious conditions

„Forgotten crisis“ in Rakhine/Myanmar: More funds needed to aid displaced population.

To mark World Refugee Day on 20 June, Malteser International is calling attention to a forgotten crisis of tragic proportions: the plight of the population displaced by ethnic violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, on the border with Bangladesh. The crisis there started exactly one year ago, forcing thousands of people to flee.

“There are more than 400,000 people displaced throughout the country, of which 150,000 in Rakhine State. The majority of them live in official or unofficial refugee camps, with very limited access to basic sanitation and clean drinking water”, reports Birke Herzbruch, Malteser International’s country representative in Myanmar, during the panel discussion “Forgotten crises: what can we do?”, organized by the German Federal Foreign Office and VENRO (Association of German Development Non-Governmental Organisations) in Berlin in 18 June. “With the current monsoon season, the situation will even become more critical”, states Herzbruch.

“Although many humanitarian organization have been assisting the population in Rakhine State since the beginning of the ethnic conflict, the media coverage  is out of all proportion to the huge dimension of this humanitarian crisis”, says Herzbruch, who has been working in Myanmar since April 2006. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), only 18% of the needed funds to support the population in Rakhine and Kayin, another crisis region in the east of the country, have been raised so far, calling into question the continuation of the relief efforts.

In May, Malteser International intensified its relief efforts in the region. Mobile medical teams currently offer free treatment for displaced people in the camps and the local population living in the neighbouring villages. In addition, Malteser International will improve the poor sanitary conditions in the camps – toilets, handwashing facilities and bath houses will be built for a total of 11,000 camp residents. 577 latrines, 50 bath houses and 15 waste collection points have already been set up in the past months. To protect the displaced population from floods during the rainy season, the teams will build a drainage system around the camps. They will also provide a regular drinking water supply through a network of shallow wells and conduct regular tests to control the water quality at the pumps. Together with a wide soap distribution, a hygiene campaign will keep the residents informed on how to prevent diseases. Almost 50,000 people will benefit from Malteser International’s relief aid.

Malteser International has been working in Myanmar since 1996. The organization is providing emergency relief in Rakhine State since June 2012. More than 16,000 people have already received packages with blankets, hygiene items, utensils and other items; mobile medical teams also provided treatment for more than 3,000 patients. 14 international and nearly 300 local staff are working in Rakhine, Shan and Kayin States aswell as in the surrounding areas of Yangon providing help in the fields of health, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), emergency relief and disaster risk reduction.