Simmering ethnic and religious tensions in Myanmar have seen numerous conflicts between communities, especially Muslim minorities and Buddhists, with the situation particularly acute in Rakhine State bordering Bangladesh. Since the eruption of inter-communal violence in 2012, an estimated 140,000 Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine have been displaced and live in aid camps, while more than 800,000 are without citizenship. A further 100,000 internally displaced people (IDP) are in Kachin State where opposition forces are fighting for autonomy and across the nation nearly half a million people are classified as internally displaced.
A consequence of the internal strife is that poverty is rampant in many areas. As well as the IDPs in Rakhine, an additional 40,000 people in that state live in remote rural communities that receive no external help. The struggles of villages relying on agriculture were compounded in 2008 by Cyclone Nargis, the worst natural disaster in Myanmar’s history, which left an estimated 200,000 dead and nearly 1 million homeless.
Access to Myanmar and its conflict regions is restricted or difficult and Muslims are subject to severe restrictions because of the political and social conditions. In May 2008, in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, Islamic Help provided emergency relief through its partners in the form of food packs, clean water, medical aid and temporary shelters. Again working with partners, our Ramadan food distribution programme in July 2014 saw 100 family food packs distributed in the villages of Thet Kal Pyin and Thet Kai Pyen, in Rakhine state which has seen some of the worst inter-ethnic violence in recent years.
Due to security issues, no banners or material featuring the word ‘Islamic’ could be displayed at the Ramadan food packs distribution. We followed that up with a further distribution programme in September 2014 in the villages of Tin Bi, Ta Pai and Sae Tha in conjunction with partner organisations. On this occasion, a total of 180 food packs were distributed to needy familie
Our food distribution programmes in 2014 have provided desperately needed food aid for approx. 1,400 people.