17 October 2017•1:44pm
UN food agency withdraws Rohingya hunger report ‘at request of Burma’
By Nicola Smith, in Taipei 17 OCTOBER 2017 • 1:44PM
The United Nations food agency is pressing for immediate access to Burma’s troubled northern Rakhine state amid accusations that it shelved a critical report revealing desperate hunger among the persecuted Muslim population.
A July assessment by the World Food Programme (WFP) warning that more than 80,000 children under the age of five in majority-Muslim areas were “wasting” – a potentially fatal condition – was removed from public view at the request of the Burmese government, the Guardian reported.Instead, the six-page document has been replaced with a statement saying Burma and the WFP are “collaborating on a revised version” and that the report should not be cited in any way. Greg Barrow, WFP’s deputy director of communications told the Telegraph that the organisation “stood by” its findings.
But he said a new assessment had to be made in light of dramatic changes on the ground since a military operation was launched against the Rohingya population after insurgents attacked security posts on August 25. However, the WFP, along with other humanitarian aid agencies has been denied access to the conflict zone, a restriction it is urging the Burmese authorities to lift.
“We know that prior to the upsurge in violence in northern Rakhine, which began in August, there were already very high levels of malnutrition particularly among women and children,” Mr Barrow said. “We also know that the upsurge in violence took place just months before the next harvest is due which means that farmers’ ability to tend for and then harvest their crops in that area will have been severely affected,” he said.
“We need access to get a clear picture to allow us to meet those needs, so that’s something that we have pushed for very vocally and will continue to push for.” The calls for access come as a new wave of thousands of Rohingya Muslims crossed over the border this week to seek refuge in squalid, overcrowded camps in Bangladesh.
In Geneva on Tuesday, UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said that an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 had fled since Sunday night, raising the overall total to 582,000 refugees who have escaped the military crackdown.
Thousands of Rohingya refugees flee from Myanmar are kept under a tight security by Bangladeshi military after crossing the border in a rice patty field near Palang Khali, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh Credit: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
The new arrivals have described horrific scenes of violence that the UN has labelled “textbook ethnic cleansing.” More recent refugees have also said the Rohingya were being starved in a bid to make them leave. Rohingya activists have accused the Burmese regime of using starvation as a “new tool” to drive the remaining communities of the Muslim Rohingya minority out of Rakhine.
“Rohingya are now being starved out of Burma and unless real pressure is put on the government and military to lift aid and movement restrictions, most…will be forced out within weeks,” said Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Association UK.