The Irrawaddy

Visiting ICRC Chief Says Northern Rakhine Needs Urgent Economic Relief

SITTWE, Rakhine State— Communities in northern Rakhine State are still in need of emergency assistance, said the International Committee of the Red Cross.

ICRC chief Peter Maurer visited Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships in troubled Rakhine State, met people from Rakhine, Hindu and Muslim communities and observed the ICRC’s humanitarian assistance during a three-day visit that started on Tuesday.

“It is unquestionable that we need to expand our activities. Businesses in the region are impacted, and people are also impacted. Mainly, ICRC needs to do something to assist the economy,” he told reporters at Sittwe Airport upon completion of his visit on Thursday.

“Humanitarian organizations are doing their best to alleviate the suffering in very difficult circumstances, especially as the monsoon season advances. But 10 months on, despite all the talking and efforts, too many people are still suffering too much,” said Maurer in his statement.

“While the emergency response continues, there must be urgent progress – from humanitarians, development actors, and the authorities – on building sustainable solutions,” he added.

The ICRC chief arrived in Bangladesh on Friday, and is expected to call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other high-ranking officials.

Maurer also met leaders of the Arakan National Party on Wednesday and civil society organizations (CSOs) in Sittwe on Thursday. He held talks with government officials as well.

“We urged the ICRC chief to make sure there is transparency and equality in providing aid to communities. We urged him not to be biased in providing assistance,” said U Than Tun, a Sittwe-based CSO representative who participated in the meeting.

Some members of the local Arakanese community have expressed a concern that international agencies are biased against them in providing humanitarian supplies.

The ICRC chief noted that the consequences of the attacks have impacts on the lives and businesses of local communities.

“What I heard was how much the economy of a village is destroyed when 7,000 out of 9,000 people have left,” he said after meeting locals in Nga Khu Ya village in Maungdaw.

“Villagers no longer go to fields for farming. They no longer go to markets. They completely lost resilience and still rely on humanitarian aid,” added Maurer, who was visiting the northern areas of Rakhine State for the first time.

The Red Cross Movement (RCM) has provided assistance to over 180,000 people since the insurgent attacks on Aug. 25 last year, according to the ICRC’s Sittwe Branch.

The RCM consists of the ICRC, Myanmar Red Cross Society, and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescents.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.