YANGON: Humanitarian assistance has not reached most of the people who were receiving some form of aid in Myanmar's Rakhine state prior to the current crisis, according to a UN official on Friday (Dec 9).
"Out of more than 150,000 people who were receiving food, cash and nutrition assistance prior to Oct 9 ... 130,000 have not been reached," said Pierre Peron, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Myanmar.
Restrictions on movement were put in place after Oct 9, in response to coordinated attacks on three border posts in Maungdaw district, in which nine security personnel were killed.
The district is under a lockdown as security forces continue their operations to hunt down the perpetrators but authorities have rejected allegations from activists civilians have been killed, gang raped or had their homes torched.
"Most people living outside the main centres have not been able to access primary healthcare services or emergency referrals for two months," said Peron. He added that this included 7,600 pregnant women and more than 10,800 people who were receiving nutrition treatment. According to Peron, around 3,400 children in northern Rakhine were being treated for severe acute malnutrition prior to Oct 9.
The humanitarian situation in Rakhine prompted other governments to express deep concern. In a statement, 14 diplomatic missions - Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States - urged Myanmar authorities to speed up the resumption of humanitarian assistance.
"We have welcomed the government’s agreement to allow a resumption of humanitarian assistance and initial deliveries to some villages, but we are concerned by delays and urge all Myanmar authorities to overcome the obstacles that have so far prevented a full resumption."
The diplomats added that apart from addressing serious humanitarian needs, full access to assistance would also help to "restore the confidence and hope that are essential to a restoration of peace and stability."