Myanmar: WFP Steps Up Rakhine Response To Newly Displaced

Published on 02 November 2012

Mubarakatu, 20, is too sick to feed her 3-month-old daughter who is also unwell. They’re both victims of civil unrest in Myanmar’s Rakhine province. WFP is stepping up its operation to reach all those affected with food assistance. Copyright: WFP/ Marcus Prior

Daw Thin Mya’s intelligent eyes sparkle through her glasses. Fifty-five years old, a successful businesswoman and mother of four, she is sitting outside a makeshift ‘dormitory’ of wood and corrugated iron that she and nine other families now call home.

SITTWE - “I don’t even know if my home is still there,” she said. “I used to have electricity, running water, everything – even a television with satellite, but I can’t go back right now.”

Daw Thin used to have a brick-making business in downtown Sittwe, but when ethnic unrest hit Rakhine state in June, she and several thousand others – both Muslim, like herself, and non-Muslim – found themselves forced from their homes and dependent on outside assistance. She now lives in Thet Kae Pyin, a Muslim community about a 20-minute drive northwest of Sittwe.

Her 23 year-old son was killed in the unrest, and she has just been diagnosed with hypertension for the first time.

Since June, WFP has maintained a steady cycle of food distributions to 65,000 displaced people, an operation that has been stepped up again following a resurgence of violence in the past two weeks, believed to have displaced another 35,000.

From WFP’s operations base in Sittwe, boats are now being loaded on a daily basis and dispatched along Rakhine’s waterways to deliver vital food supplies to those affected by the latest round of conflict and displacement. Although security remains a concern, access is improving by the day, as WFP works with the local authorities to ensure safe passage for both staff and food.

Included in all the supplies being sent out from Sittwe is fortified blended food, designed to prevent malnutrition amongst the most vulnerable, especially young children. With the annual lean season only now coming to an end, many children have been through a particularly difficult time and are in need of this kind of targeted food assistance.

The violence has affected all communities to some degree. In another camp for the displaced inside Sittwe, we met 63 year-old Ma Phyu from the Rakhine community. She too lost her home in June, fleeing into town with her family for safety.

“I can’t imagine going home – everything is burnt, I have nothing left,” she said.

User Experience Survey

about the author

Marcus Prior

Spokesperson for South and East Asia

Marcus Prior, a former journalist, was WFP's East Africa spokesperson before coming to Bangkok in 2010 to head up public relations in South and East Asia.