Monday, January 5, 2009

Burma - Refugees International

The international community must address Burma’s humanitarian crisis with increased aid nationwide.

For more than five decades, Burma has been entrenched in political and armed conflict between the repressive ruling military regime, political opponents, and ethnic groups, resulting in the displacement of over 3.5 million Burmese.While most analysts, including Refugees International, believe only a change in political leadership can address the structural causes of poverty in Burma, few forecast an end to the country’s political stalemate. Refugees International believes the international community must do more to address the humanitarian needs of Burma’s 55 million people in the absence of political progress.

Current Humanitarian Situation
Although Burma is a resource-rich country with a strong agricultural base, it is believed to be one of the poorest countries in the world. The UN Development Program estimates that Burma’s GDP per capita is the 13th lowest in the world. According to UNICEF under-5 child mortality averages 104 per 1,000 children, the second-highest rate outside Africa, after Afghanistan. Burma also has the highest HIV rates in Southeast Asia, and malaria, a treatable and preventable disease, is still the leading cause of mortality and morbidity. Despite this, Burma receives less international assistance – at $3 per person – than any other of the poorest nations in the world, where the average is $58 per person.

Following the disaster caused by Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, international aid entered the country at an unprecedented rate, but these additional resources remain only in cyclone-affected regions. Because of these increased resources, aid agencies report an unprecedented level of access and mobility. But the gains these agencies have made in delivering relief supplies, gathering information about needs and supporting local communities are at risk without continued international support for food security, livelihood and early recovery activities.

Action Needed
The U.S. government and the European Commission should immediately commit funds to continue humanitarian cyclone relief past the emergency stage and into 2009 for food security, early recovery and livelihoods programs nationwide. They should allocate these funds based on revised assessments of need and the ability to effectively implement such programs.

Field Reports

Rohingya: Burma’s Forgotten Minority
Among Burma’s ethnic minorities, the Rohingya, a stateless population, stand out for their particularly harsh treatment by Burmese authorities and their invisibility as a persecuted minority. Despite decades of severe repression, there has been minimal international response to the needs of this extremely vulnerable population compared to other Burmese refugees. The United Nations (UN) and donor governments should integrate the Rohingya into their regional responses for Burmese refugees. Host countries should allow the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and implementing partners to provide basic services to all the Rohingya and officially recognize them as a refugee population.

Burma: Building Upon Success
Three months after Cyclone Nargis, the world has an outdated image of the situation inside Burma. Although aid agencies delivered assistance within days after the storm and continue to do so, the story of a recalcitrant government that rejects aid from the generous nations of the world has not been updated.

In Depth Reports

Ending the Waiting Game: Strategies for Responding to Internally Displaced People in Burma
Burma is experiencing one of the most neglected humanitarian and human rights crises in the world. No less than half a million people are internally displaced in the eastern part of the country and at least one million more have fled to neighboring nations. This report provides an in-depth look at the causes of displacement in Burma, the acute needs of the internally displaced population and the current response to those needs.

In 2008, the U.S. provided $50 million in assistance after Cyclone Nargis struck the Irrawaddy Delta -- killing 140,000 and affecting 2.4 million others. This was a tremendous increase over the U.S. government’s previous $3 million budget for aid to Burmese people inside the country. Refugees International slowly began to change the U.S. government’s stance against funding humanitarian aid programs inside Burma after two years of being one of the few organizations calling for increased assistance.


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