The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been providing basic aid and assistance to the injured, ill and displaced in Rakhine State, Anne Ryniker, the ICRC deputy head of operations for Asia and the Pacific, said in an interview released on Monday.
“Beyond the damage to lives and property, mutual suspicion and fear continue to hinder the movement of civilians, including civil servants and aid workers, often making it difficult for people to access basic services – such as health care – and for humanitarian organizations to deliver aid,” she said.
The ICRC is working closely in cooperation with the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) organization.
“Communities must understand that we provide aid on the basis of need alone to all persons affected by violence without distinction as to race, religion or ethnic origin,” Ryniker said.
She said the ICRC’s priority is to gain access to the area so that it can perform its humanitarian work.
“In such a tense climate, acceptance by the communities concerned is not easy to maintain. Communities must understand that we provide aid on the basis of need alone to all persons affected by violence without distinction as to race, religion or ethnic origin," said Ryniker. “The only way we can operate is on the basis of trust. This is why the ICRC cannot use military or other armed escorts.”
She said MRCS volunteers stepped in very soon after the outbreak of violence, providing assistance for displaced people at 17 main sites, and distributed basic items to the displaced, such as cooking sets, tarpaulins and soap. They also help people separated from their families to reconnect with relatives by giving them access to phones and enabling them to write short messages.
Since June 16, an emergency ICRC team has been stationed in Sittwe composed of both national and international staff and it has been providing the MRCS with technical, logistical and financial support.
“Working jointly, the ICRC and the MRCS have so far been able to move about unimpeded and without armed escorts,” she said.
She said the immediate objective is to concentrate on vital needs in two key areas: health care, and water supply and sanitation, said Ryniker. The MRCS and the ICRC have provided first aid staff to assist the medical staff of mobile clinics operated by government medical authorities and others, such as the Myanmar Medical Association,.
“All this is still a work in progress,” Ryniker said. “Advances have been made because both the MRCS and the ICRC have so far been able to operate ‘across the lines’ and independently. We are committed to staying the course and increasing our assistance.”