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Myanmar refugee camps in poor condition after aid agency attacks

Foreign aid agencies said conditions in refugee camps in Myanmar's Rakhine state have gotten worse compared to two months ago, as the agencies are only functioning at half the capacity they used to.

YANGON: Foreign aid agencies said conditions in refugee camps in Myanmar's Rakhine state have gotten worse compared to two months ago, as the agencies are only functioning at half the capacity they used to.

This comes after they were attacked by locals who accused them of providing more assistance to the Bengalis or Rohingyas.

Many foreign aid workers fled, and with the security situation still uncertain, some have not returned.

Two months after locals attacked foreign aid agencies in Rakhine, their operations are still severely impaired.

Pierre Peron, spokesman for UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said: "The infrastructure logistics that was in place, was affected by what happened. So that takes a while to build up again.

“We also find that it's becoming increasingly expensive to work in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine and just in general because the landlords that rent properties to international organisations are increasing their price and that's simply because they themselves are getting threatened."

Such challenges mean that foreign aid agencies will not be able to respond quickly and effectively to any sudden health crises or natural disasters.

Those living in refugee camps are feeling the full impact.

Peron said: "The conditions, humanitarian conditions, for many people in Rakhine state were not good to begin with and it's even worse now.

“In some cases for example, they'd be given food and they would have to sell parts of the food every month to be able to buy things that they really, really need.”

Foreign NGOs have identified over 300,000 people in need of help in Rakhine.

But with key medical aid agency Doctors without Borders still unable to operate there, the gaps are becoming increasingly difficult to plug.

Bertrand Bainvel from UNICEF said: "You have a lot of tensions, a lot of prejudice against the humanitarian development community especially in Sittwe.

“We have to enlist the support of the communities because at the end of the day, those suffering from these level of tensions, this level of restrictions that we face to the development, are actually the people. We saw the halving of nutrition surveillance activities among children living in camps.”

The general sense of insecurity the aid agencies feel has also delayed some of their return.

Some of those living in the camps in Rakhine have no access to healthcare services.

International aid agencies said they do not sometimes have a clear picture exactly to what is going on, because they have no access to some of the camps.

Some of the aid agencies also told Channel NewsAsia that their local employees have quit for fear of their own safety. This is why many foreign NGOs are unable to say exactly when they will be fully functional again in Rakhine.  

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