Adrian Edwards for the High Commissioner for Refugees said the government now estimated that in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state more than 35,000 people have now been displaced by the ongoing inter-communal violence. UNHCR staff had travelled to affected villages and found groups of displaced people in urgent need of food and shelter.
The Myanmar authorities had granted permission for humanitarian teams to assess the situation and needs in areas affected by the unrest that started nearly two weeks ago. In the last two days UNHCR staff had conducted inter-agency visits to several villages in Myebon, Mrauk-U and Minbya townships, to the east and north-east of Rakhine’s state capital Sittwe.
The police and army were present in all the villages visited. UNHCR staff spoke to displaced people who shared their fears of being attacked again if the troops left. Medical staff in the assessment teams were able to treat many of the wounded, including people suffering from burns, gunshot and arrow injuries. There were also a number of new mothers – 14 in two villages – who said their labour had been induced by the violence.
A few families said children had been left behind when they fled. Among the children who made it to safety - many were malnourished. Most of the displaced people UNHCR staff met said they needed food and shelter material. Aid agencies including UNHCR had sent food and plastic sheets but there were still many needs to be met.
The latest wave of unrest brought to 110,000 the total number of people displaced by inter-communal violence in Rakhine state since June this year. UNHCR had joined the international community in calling for an immediate return to calm between the communities.
Answering questions he said the figures quoted came from the Government and there was not sufficient visibility for UNHCR to do their own registrations.
Elisabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme said the WFP was providing food assistance to more than 65,000 people who were deplaced in June and was looking to increase its operations in the region. It was delivering food by boat, considered the easiest method to reach isolated villages.
Answering a question about the outbreak of violence Ms. Momal-Vanian drew attention to the Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General of 25 October which said the most recent outbreak of communal violence in five townships in Northern Rakhine was deeply troubling.
The widening mistrust between the communities was being exploited by militant and criminal elements to cause large-scale loss of human lives, material destruction, displaced families as well as fear, humiliation and hatred affecting the people from all walks of life, it read.
While the Secretary-General noted the clear recognition at the highest political levels in Myanmar of the need to contain this communal violence, he called on the authorities to take urgent and effective action to bring under control all cases of lawlessness.
The statement also noted that Myanmar was striving to be an example of tolerance and moderation in Asia and the world. Such events must not be allowed to tarnish its efforts. The United Nations was ready to do whatever is necessary to alleviate the situation and bring tranquillity and harmony to the region.