The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Friday said it has stepped up its emergency response to assist hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people in Myanmar as their number crossed the 800,000 mark, doubled since last year’s military coup.
“Security is deteriorating rapidly across the country as fighting, and armed conflict intensifies with no sign of abating,” Matthew Saltmarsh, a UNHCR spokesman, said at a UN press conference, referring to what has been happening since last year’s military coup.
He said that some 440,000 people have been newly displaced since February 2021, according to UNHCR data, adding to an existing 370,000 who had fled their homes previously.
“UNHCR forecasts an accelerating trend of displacements in the coming weeks and months,” said Saltmarsh.
Humanitarian access in many parts of Myanmar remains restricted due to insecurity, roadblocks, and challenges in obtaining access approvals from the military authorities, he said.
When asked if the UN agency is talking to the military authorities, Saltmarsh said: “In terms of our relationship with the military, it’s based very much on the humanitarian imperative.”
“It’s about getting access, it’s about getting aid into the country, it’s about ensuring that staff can work there and that our partners are also free to work there.”
As a result, host communities and local responders continue to play a leading role in assisting displaced populations – demonstrating solidarity with each other by donating what they can, said Saltmarsh.
The Kayin, Kayah, Mon, Shan, Bago and Tanintharyi regions collectively account for more than half of the 440,000 newly displaced civilians.
Kayin and Kayah states remain the most affected as hostilities between various armed groups have triggered large-scale displacements.
Another conflict-affected area with pressing humanitarian needs is Myanmar’s North-West, where about 190,000 people remain displaced in Chin State, Magway Region, and the Sagaing Region.
Those numbers do not refer to displaced people from the minority Rohingya group who have fled Myanmar.
“In Bangladesh, in the Cox’s Bazar area, there are currently 918,000 displaced Rohingya,” said Saltmarsh.
“Within Myanmar, there are a total of 1.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and stateless people, and if you just take the IDP population, it’s over the 800,000 mark,” he added.
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