UNHCR increases emergency response in Myanmar as number of displaced persons doubles

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced on Friday that it is increasing its emergency response in Myanmar as the coup d’état reaches its one-year anniversary.

The increased emergency response comes as the number of people displaced by the conflict in Myanmar reaches 800,000. UNHCR predicts that displacements will increase at a greater rate than previously. The coup was identified as a particular accelerant of displacement, seeing 440,000 persons displaced since it began.

The military junta has set up roadblocks making it difficult for international organizations including UNHCR to gain access to the conflict zones to provide humanitarian aid. In the first year of the coup, the UN provided humanitarian aid to 170,000 displaced persons. The aid has included “tarpaulins, ropes, blankets, kitchen sets, mosquito nets, buckets, sleeping mats, sanitary kits, COVID-19 personal protective equipment, solar lamps, and winterization kits for adults and children.”

The challenges associated with the provision of humanitarian aid raise questions about Myanmar’s compliance with international humanitarian law. Article 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention provides that signatory states “shall allow the free passage of all consignments of medical and hospital stores and objects necessary for religious worship intended only for civilians.” Myanmar is a signatory of the Convention.

UNHCR Spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh commented:

The humanitarian situation in Myanmar remains precarious with increased vulnerabilities linked to rising commodity prices, job and income losses, disruptions to basic services and prolonged insecurity. The majority of [internally displaced persons] are consequently dependent on humanitarian support for survival. Some 600,000 stateless Rohingya in Rakhine State, including some 148,000 displaced in camps, villages and displacement sites, also remain highly vulnerable and require humanitarian support.

As the coup continues, UNHCR will continue advocating for the rights of the citizenry of Myanmar.