As a result of renewed violence which erupted on August 25th, 2017 between the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and the national army, in northern Rakhine State in Burma, several hundreds of thousands of people, from the Rohingya Muslim minority, have been forced to flee their country to take refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh. The urgency to escape from the abuses committed by the military and the magnitude of the displacement has worsened the vulnerability of thousands of children, women, and men faced with a lack of basic necessities and limited access to primary services.
In total, more than 379,000 people have found refuge in Bangladesh in unsanitary conditions and extreme precariousness. Development and Peace has just supported its partner Caritas Bangladesh with $50,000 in emergency funds to provide aid for refugee families in the district of Cox’s Bazar. Faced with this serious humanitarian situation, the organization is focusing its efforts on saving lives by ensuring food distribution for more than 25,000 people.
“The Rohingya population had to flee the atrocities as quickly as possible, leaving behind burnt villages, as well as their cattle and possessions. Humanitarian aid is essential in such an emergency context so that refugees may somehow survive,” explains Stéphane Vinhas, Emergency Relief Program Officer for Development and Peace, before adding that “the Rohingya community is a stateless minority and one of the most persecuted in the world. The United Nations describes the situation as ‘ethnic cleansing’ and it would seem important to support this population, which has been facing discrimination for a number of years.”
Enabling displaced children to continue their education in northeastern of Burma
Since January, Development and Peace has been supporting an access-to-education program for children displaced by violence, in partnership with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). In 2011, following the breakdown of the fragile ceasefire which had been in effect for 17 years between the Myanmar army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), civil war worsened in northern Kachin State. The conflict has pushed whole families to leave their villages to settle in less exposed localities, on the border between Burma and China, thus disrupting their already difficult daily routine.
The program in the dioceses of Myitkyina and Banmaw is designed to enable forcibly displaced children to continue their schooling and receive quality education by supporting local organizations and existing structures, offering continuous teacher training, reinforcing student motivation, and providing school supplies.
Despite the holding of general elections in 2010 and 2015, key ministries and positions in the Myanmar parliament and government remains under the control of its national army and is still one of the poorest countries in Asia. Ethnic tensions persist in a number of regions and have led to frequent confrontations between the national army and several armed ethnic groups, creating significant humanitarian needs for people displaced by the fighting.
In 2013, Development and Peace – Caritas Canada acted alongside its partner Karuna Myanmar Social Services (KMSS), the social assistance service of the Catholic Church in Myanmar, to help displaced persons in the north of the country. Following the passage of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, the organization collected $2.4 milliom to support disaster victims and reinforce KMSS emergency response initiatives.
© Tommy Trenchard/Caritas