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Humanitarian Aid At Risk In Rakhine State Violence

International and national staffs of non-governmental organizations transfer into a bus upon arriving in domestic airport in Yangon from Sittwe, Thursday, Mar 27, 2014.

Tensions are high in an area of eastern Burma following attacks on the offices and residences of the United Nations.

Tensions are high in an area of eastern Burma following attacks on the offices and residences of the United Nations, other international groups and non-governmental aid organizations that had been operating there. Apparent mistrust over humanitarian aid activities sparked protests that led to assaults on offices, warehouses and staff quarters in Sittwe, Rakhine State. Damage was reportedly extensive, with forced entry and looting reported at some facilities and vandalism outside others.

The United States is deeply concerned about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Rakhine. The violent actions aggravated an already troubling situation stemming from restrictions placed on the humanitarian groups as they work to provide health care and other critical services to over 140,000 internally displaced persons and hundreds of thousands of additional individuals in the region who are in need.

As a result, large segments of the population have no access to water, sanitation, food and adequate medical care. The Burmese government has so far failed to provide adequate security and the travel authorizations necessary for humanitarian aid workers to resume life-saving services.

We welcome the Burmese government’s investigation into the cause of the riots in Sittwe and its pledge to take action against those that committed violence. As it concludes its investigation, we encourage the government to respond with timely and decisive actions in order to help prevent similar violence in the future.

Currently, the most critical priority is to restore humanitarian access to allow life-saving services to vulnerable populations throughout Rakhine State.

Burma is undertaking dramatic changes and we are determined to work with the nation’s reformers to see this process through. We encourage Burma’s leaders to work toward a durable solution that addresses the underlying causes of conflict in Rakhine State and to create the conditions for sustainable peace and development. The United States remains committed to assisting in these efforts.