YANGON — Nearly 100,000 people in Rakhine State are unable to access essential services because of a ban on aid organisations entering townships affected by fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army, humanitarian groups have warned in a joint statement.
The restrictions on access by humanitarian and development organisations to Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun, Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships were imposed by the government on January 10, the statement said. Newly-imposed restrictions were also affecting access to rural areas of Mrauk-U Township, said the statement, signed by 16 groups, including Action Contre la Faim, CARE, Oxfam and Save the Children.
The fighting had worsened an already precarious situation in central and northern Rakhine, the statement said.
“At least 95,000 people living in these conflict affected areas are no longer able to access a number of basic and essential services. Health care services, education and access to clean water have all been jeopardized,” it said.
Livelihood programmes, agricultural support and other development work had also been suspended, affecting the food security and wellbeing of communities.
“While some relief activities targeting newly displaced populations have been permitted to proceed, significant gaps remain,” the statement said.
The 16 groups said they acknowledged the government’s primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of those involved in humanitarian and development activities.
“However, the differences in the security situation across Rakhine State necessitates a differentiated approach – one that ensures access to locations not directly impacted by fighting and recent security incidents. A blanket security approach for entire townships deprives populations in need of assistance and basic services,” said the statement.
It called for domestic and international aid groups to be granted rapid, unfettered and sustained access to all affected populations.
Such access was needed “ to independently assess needs and provide comprehensive assistance and protection to all communities in accordance with international humanitarian principles,” it said.