INGOs issue plea to resume humanitarian work in Rakhine

A group of international non-government organisations has appealed to the government to lift restrictions on their movement so they can resume providing humanitarian aid in Rakhine State.

The plea was made in a joint statement issued in Yangon on Wednesday by 18 INGOs, including Care International, Oxfam, the International Rescue Committee and Save the Children.

Access to the region has been restricted since Islamic militants attacked police posts in northern Rakhine on August 25 and the Tatmadaw retaliated with an operation that has sent about 480,000 Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh.

“We urge the government and authorities in Myanmar to ensure that all people in need in Rakhine State have full, free and unimpeded access to life-saving humanitarian assistance. This must include lifting all movement restrictions and ensuring that humanitarian actors can carry out their work in safety,” the INGOs said in the statement.

It expressed reservations about a government decision for the delivery of aid in northern Rakhine to be led by the Myanmar Red Cross Society, with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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“We are very concerned that this will not be sufficient to meet the enormous humanitarian needs across this region,” the statement said.

International NGOs stood ready to act on the invitation issued by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her speech on September 19 to assist in providing aid to all communities in need, it said.

“We stand ready to provide assistance impartially and neutrally to all people in need in all communities throughout Rakhine State and to fully resume our operations,” the statement said.

It said threats, allegations, misinformation and public accusations against humanitarian workers in Rakhine had contributed to an environment in which they had become victims of targeted attacks.

“We repeat our call to all actors to cease the spread of misinformation and unfounded accusations against humanitarian organizations that risks the safety of our staff and hinders the provision of life-saving assistance,” the statement said.

Its release came a day before the United Nations Secretary-General Mr Antonio Guterres was due to brief the UN Security Council in New York on the Rakhine crisis, which he has called an “humanitarian catastrophe”.

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