We need aid: UN official

DESPERATE::Muslim refugees crammed into camps in western Myanmar are living in appalling conditions, but the UN urgently needs cash to improve the situation

AP, YANGON, Myanmar

Sun, Dec 09, 2012 - Page 4

The UN’s head of humanitarian affairs says conditions at refugee camps in western Myanmar housing victims of recent communal violence are among the worst she has seen in the world and is pleading for international aid.

UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos issued a statement yesterday after a four-day visit to western Rakhine State to assess the living conditions of thousands displaced by deadly violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya.

“We have to improve the situation,” Amos said in the statement. “People are living in overcrowded conditions with appalling sanitation and limited access to water, and an increasing risk of disease outbreaks.”

Amos visited eight different refugee camps, with varying living conditions, but she described one camp in Myebon as particularly shocking.

“I have seen many camps during my time as the [UN emergency relief coordinator], but the conditions in this camp rank among the worst,” she said.

Her remarks underscored concerns about Myanmar’s stability, even as the country makes strides toward a democratic society under the reformist government of Burmese President Thein Sein after almost five decades of military rule.

“There have been a number of very encouraging political developments this year, but also a number of humanitarian challenges that need to be addressed, where the United Nations and our partners can help and make a difference,” she told a news conference in Yangon on Friday.

She called on the government to promote reconciliation in Rakhine State, where antagonism between the two communities burst into deadly violence in recent months, killing about 200 people on both sides and displacing about 110,000 people, the vast majority of them Muslims.

She also urged the international community to contribute urgently needed cash to help improve the situation.

Last month, the UN humanitarian coordinator based in Myanmar said donors had already pitched in US$27 million, but that an additional US$41 million was needed to meet humanitarian needs through June next year.