Monday, December 11, 2017 12:00:34 PM
Adva Saldinger :
A lack of access is the biggest impediment to aid from the United States reaching the Rohingya Muslim minority in northern Rakhine state in Myanmar, U.S. officials said in a congressional hearing on Thursday.
After an August 25 attack on state security by Rohingya militants, the civilian population has been targeted by the military in the past six weeks in a violent surge that many have defined as ethnic cleansing. The unprecedented exodus - about 500,000 Rohingya crossed the border to Bangladesh in the past few weeks - is more rapid than those the world has seen in Iraq, Syria, or South Sudan. Bangladesh is now home to about 1 million Rohingya refugees, according to U.S. officials, and about 200,000 Rohingya are displaced within Myanmar.
"The challenge is not a lack of resources, but a lack of access," said V. Kate Somvongsiri, the acting deputy assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. "Many USAID partners were forced to suspend work due to military action."
The U.S. cannot access northern Rakhine state, and even has challenges with access in the border region, but it continues some work in other parts of the country, including supporting civil society to counter hate speech, she said at the hearing.
As a result of the government and military crackdown on access for USAID and NGOs most of the U.S. efforts are supporting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, though flooding there has slowed aid delivery and a recent report said the influx of new refugees is outpacing resources, creating further challenges and the potential for disease to spread.
The U.S. government allocated an additional $32 million in funds to address the Rohingya crisis in late September, with $28 million going to support refugees in Bangladesh and the remaining $4 million set to support efforts within Myanmar.
"This administration is undertaking all efforts to end suffering immediately," and has "made clear to officials [in Myanmar] that they need to take steps to stop violence," said W. Patrick Murphy, the U.S. State Department's deputy assistant secretary for Southeast Asia.
Several members of Congress asked whether those diplomatic conversations and the efforts the U.S. has undertaken have made a difference in ending the violence and enabling humanitarian efforts.
Murphy said there have been "some small signs of progress," including that the Red Cross was granted access to Rakhine state. The government and military in Myanmar had initially said that all aid had to be funneled through them. USAID, United Nations agencies, and most other NGOs are still prohibited from accessing the region.
The Red Cross, however, has said it will be unable to meet all the needs, said Mark Storella, the deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, and so officials must allow access to U.N. agencies and NGOs that have experience working in the area.
In the meantime, there is "not much from a development assistance" perspective that USAID can do unless access and more information is provided, Somvongsiri said. The agency is calling for "unfettered access."
But access goes beyond convincing the country's leadership and requires working with local leaders so that false rumors fanned by the government don't lead to further attacks on aid shipments. A mob of hundreds attacked an aid shipment in Rakhine state last week, and while local authorities stopped the attack, it illustrates that some groups other than the Rohingya believe their needs are not being met, Murphy said.
Much of the hearing focused on the U.S. government's diplomatic response to the situation and how it could step up pressure on the government and military in Myanmar to stop the violence, allow aid to reach the Rohingya, and work toward a long-term peaceful solution.
Several tense moments came in exchanges about why administration officials stopped short of calling the situation ethnic cleansing, though U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley came close when she described it as "a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority." Among suggested sanctions, some pointed to publicly shaming Myanmar's leadership, but a common theme was one of urgency. Members of the committee demanded immediate action, asking the administration representatives what actions could bring results now.
"What can have an effect right now?" asked Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican from Pennsylvania. "People are dying today as we sit here."
(As a Devex Impact associate editor, Adva leads coverage of the intersection of business and international development).
AFP, New York :Billionaire Guo Wengui, who is seeking asylum in the United States after accusing officials in his native China of corruption, wants "a change of the regime" in Beijing and the introduction of democracy in the world's most populous country."I want to try and to have rule of ...
PASSING the Aman harvest, rice price has not come down as government leaders earlier said and rather gone up to the dismay of the common people all over the country. Though farmers are happy with higher price; although they have suffered production loss at many places due to late receding ...
For the fourth consecutive year, Bollywood actress and model Gauhar Khan has been voted to the top 10 list of ‘50 Sexiest Asian Women list’ in the world. It is an annual UK poll, which has been released in London recently. The actress, who is known for her choice of ...
Huff Post :A former Fox News anchorwoman who accused Bill O'Reilly of sexually harassing her in 2011 is now claiming that Donald Trump kissed her on the lips in an elevator.Juliet Huddy said Thursday morning on the "Mornin!!! With Bill Schulz" podcast (which has a paywall) that it happened around ...
PRESENCE of dust and pollution in the air of our cities has reached alarming levels. It's happening mainly due to chaotic construction works, poor management and protracted traffic jams. According to Air Quality Index Report of the Department of Environment's (DoE) "Clean Air and Sustainable Project" earlier this month, air ...
BSS, Dhaka :Chanchal Kumar Ghosh emerged as unbeaten champion in the Blitz Chess Championship with 6.5 points after the 7th round game on Friday at E Commerce Club hall room in Uttara. Five players finished in second to sixth position with 5.5 points after the tie breaking system. They are ...
Akshay Kumar, who has films like Padman and 2.0 lined up for 2018, has created a stir after rumors of him stepping out of the film titled Mogul came to the forefront. Mogul is a biopic on the creator of T-series, Gulshan Kumar. According to the rumors, Akshay Kumar and ...
DESPITE fertile land loss, inclement weather and depleting irrigation water, Bangladesh's agriculture keeps contributing a fifth of the GDP each year. Along with other factors, government's policy support in the form of fertiliser subsidy plays a big part here. But misappropriation of the key agro input such as fertiliser by ...
Over the past few days, there are some reports doing the rounds that ace cricketer Virat Kohli and Bollywood starlet Anushka Sharma are getting married. According to these reports, both these love-birds will tie the knot in Italy. The manager of Anushka has already slammed these reports by saying these ...