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UNICEF calls for full Humanitarian access to Muslim-Majority area in North of Rakhine state in Myanmar

World Food Programme had begun the first deliveries of food aid in Maungdaw, reaching about 6,500 people in four villages affected by the violence

FILE - Rakhine Chief Minister Nyi Pu, left, and Myanmar's high ranking military officers return from a trip with a diplomatic mission and United Nations officials to the Maungdaw area in northern Rakhine State in Myanmar, Nov. 3, 2016. VOA

Yangon (Myanmar), November 9, 2016: Unrest in Myanmar’s northwest is taking a “terrible toll” on children, the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said and called for full humanitarian access to the Muslim-majority north of Rakhine state.

Tens of thousands of people have been cut off from food and other aid normally provided by international agencies since the Oct. 9 deadly attacks on police guard posts along the border with Bangladesh.

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“While some aid has been delivered in recent days, UNICEF calls for full resumption of essential services and the urgent lifting of all restrictions of movement of health and other professionals so they can safely reach children and families,” UNICEF said in a statement from New York Tuesday.

Troops have poured into the region in response to the attacks, in which assailants believed to be from the mostly stateless Rohingya group killed nine policemen. The army declared the area an operation zone, blocked aid and barred foreign journalists and observers from the Maungdaw area. Residents and human rights monitors say extra-judicial killings, rape and arbitrary arrests have taken place.

[bctt tweet=”Security forces have killed 33 alleged attackers, while five soldiers and one policeman have been killed in Rakhine State, Myanmar. ” username=””]

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FILE - Renata Lok-Dessallien, left, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, and British ambassador to Myanmar Andrew Patrick attend a news conference after a trip to the Maungdaw area in northern Rakhine state in Myanmar, Nov. 3, 2016. VOA
FILE – Renata Lok-Dessallien, left, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, and British ambassador to Myanmar Andrew Patrick attend a news conference after a trip to the Maungdaw area in northern Rakhine state in Myanmar, Nov. 3, 2016. VOA

On Tuesday, the World Food Programme said it had begun the first deliveries of food aid in Maungdaw in more than a month, reaching about 6,500 people in four villages affected by the violence. WFP said its assistance would normally reach 152,000 people in northern Rakhine.

The majority in the area are Rohingya Muslims, a 1.1 million strong group in Rakhine who face restrictions on their movements and access to services. The malnutrition rate is 19 percent among children younger than 5 in Maungdaw, according to U.N. statistics.

The limited access came after a request from diplomats and the U.N.’s top official in Myanmar, who visited Maungdaw over two days last week. The delegation called for an independent investigation into alleged rights abuses and for aid programs to be allowed to resume.

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U.N. officials and diplomats from Western countries privately expressed concern at the public response to the crisis from the government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which has flatly denied allegations of abuses committed by the military.

State-run newspapers have said last week’s visit by diplomats — who stressed they were not able to verify claims of rights abuses — revealed that the allegations were baseless. A key official spokesman singled out a journalist reporting allegations and said the claims were concocted by people with links to insurgents. (VOA)

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Drone and Satellites Expose Myanmar’s Pain

Rohingya refugee
An Oct. 5, 2017 image taken from a video released by Arakan Rohingya National Organization shows villagers preparing to cross a river towards the Maungdaw township in the Rakhine state that borders Bangladesh.

London- The Rohingya refugee crisis is an age-old tale of displacement and suffering, but technology is providing new tools to tackle it, rights groups and charities said on Wednesday.

Powerful drone and satellite images are bringing to life the urgent needs of more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, while also providing strong evidence of abuses, which could be used to lobby for justice.

“We can describe for hours the large numbers of refugees crossing the border and how quickly existing camps have expanded, but one image captures it all,” said Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since the military in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar launched a counter-insurgency operation after attacks on security posts by Rohingya militants in late August.

The UNHCR is using videos and photographs shot with drones to show the scale of the displacement crisis and bring it to life to spur action from the public and donors.

It is also using satellites to count and identify refugee families by their location in the Bangladesh camps to target assistance to those most in need, Mahecic told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.

The use of drone footage of refugees entering Bangladesh has boosted donations for medical care, water and food, according to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an alliance of 13 leading British aid agencies.

Rights monitors also hope satellite images can provide evidence that to help bring perpetrators to justice.

Satellite photos were used in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to prove mass executions in 1995 in Srebrenica.

But the technology has yet to achieve its potential because of limited budgets and a lack of standardised methodologies accepted by courts, experts say.

Human Rights Watch has shared satellite images showing the burning of almost 300 villages in Myanmar, refugees’ mobile phone footage and their testimonies with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“We have found the debris field in satellite imagery where people were executed, corroborating multiple eyewitness statements,” said Josh Lyons, a satellite imagery analyst with the U.S.-based rights group.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has called the violence against Rohingya in Myanmar “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” and his office is working to determine whether it meets the legal definition of genocide.(VOA)