NGO calls on British government to provide more Myanmar refugee aid

13 April 2019
NGO calls on British government to provide more Myanmar refugee aid
Myanmar refugees at Mae La refugee camp near the Thai-Burma border in Tak province, north-western of Thailand. Photo: EPA

Questions have been raised as to whether British government aid for Myanmar is enough to support refugees and internally displaced people who have fled their homes due to various conflicts in Myanmar. 

In a press release from Burma Campaign UK on 12 April, the concern was expressed that people in the more remote areas of Myanmar are not getting enough support.

As the NGO notes, the annual British aid budget for Myanmar is almost £90 million a year, but not enough of it is reaching people from ethnic minorities. In eastern Myanmar, around a quarter of a million people from ethnic groups now live in temporary camps in the country, or refugee camps on the border in Thailand. 

The NGO claims the international community is not making these people a priority. 

Conditions in the camps are harsh, getting proper shelter, food, medicine and medical care is a struggle. Children are missing out on a proper education. All because not enough aid is being given to support them, despite aid budgets for Myanmar increasing in recent years. 

Ethnic Karen refugees living in camps in Thailand have told Burma Campaign UK that cuts in the aid they receive make them feel like the international community is trying to starve them back into Myanmar even though it isn’t safe for them to return. 

The UK government claims it is giving more aid to ethnic areas in Myanmar, but it is money for economic development, not extra humanitarian assistance to people living in the camps. Their basic humanitarian needs should be met before we start spending aid money on things like new motorways in Rangoon. 

The proportion of British aid spent on humanitarian aid, which helps refugees and internally displaced people, has fallen, and now makes up just 17 percent of the budget. 

The International Development Committee has also requested DFID look again and the balance of aid spending in Myanmar with a view to increasing aid to the most vulnerable refugees and internally displaced people. 

“Economic development is important, but people who have lost everything and have no way to earn a living should not be left in squalid camps without proper shelter, healthcare, food and education for their children,” said Anna Roberts, Executive Director of Burma Campaign UK. “They must be prioritised when decisions on aid spending are made.”