Myanmar Red Cross Society provides emergency assistance during Rakhine unrest

Published: 15 June 2012 15:59 CET

Myanmar Red Cross Society volunteers are providing emergency health care to people injured in unrest in the northwestern state of Raakhine, as well as supporting people displaced to make contact with their families.

Volunteers have been providing first aid and the Red Cross ambulance service has been used to evacuate more serious cases to healthcare facilities.

So far, the Red Cross Restoring Family Links service has assisted 72 people to make contact with their families and confirm their safety, and the families of 13 children staying in relief centres have also been contacted with Red Cross assistance.

Since 8 June, at least 29 people have been killed and 38 injured as tension between Muslim and Buddhist communities have reached crisis point. About 2,000 houses have been burnt and at least 36,000 people have been displaced in three townships in northern Rakhine and in the state capital of Sittwe. A state of emergency was announced by the government on 10 June. The 36,000 displaced people are housed in 43 relief centres including camps and monasteries.

“We have about 140 volunteers in areas where tensions are ongoing, as well as project staff who are natives of Rakhine. These volunteers and staff have been doing their best to assist those in need, despite the difficult circumstances,” said Myanmar Red Cross Society President, Dr Tha Hla Shwe.

Shops are reported to be shut and there are shortages in food, transportation services and power. The most urgent need among affected communities at the moment is for food.

Several aid organizations operating in the area, including the Myanmar Red Cross Society, have been forced to temporarily suspend ongoing project activities in the affected area. A total of 162 staff of aid agencies have been voluntarily relocated to safe locations.

“All Myanmar Red Cross staff and volunteers are safe – most of them are from Rakhine State,” said Dr Tha Hla Shwe. The organization’s project offices are also secure. “While our projects have been suspended temporarily, we are able to provide emergency support to those in need, irrespective of their affiliations or religious beliefs,” he stressed. Red Cross volunteers and staff are “rendering service with dedication and selflessness”.

The Myanmar Red Cross Society has several ongoing projects in the affected or neighbouring areas –including child protection services, assistance to displaced people, disaster risk reduction and community-based healthcare, as well as a recovery operation for communities affected by Cyclone Giri in late 2010. 

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies which supports the Myanmar Red Cross Society in its implementation of a number of projects in the area, is closely monitoring the situation and liaising with the ICRC and other International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement partners.