Crisis Severity The severity score from 1 to 5 is based on 31 indicators aggregated into 3 pillars (impact, conditions, and complexity)3.10 Very lowVery high 5
Impact This measures the impact of the crisis itself, in terms of the scope of its geographical, and human effects.2.50 Very lowVery high 5
Humanitarian Conditions This measures the conditions and status of the people affected, including info about the distribution of severity.3.00 Very lowVery high 5
Complexity This measures the complexity of the crisis, in terms of factors that affect its mitigation or resolution.3.70 Very lowVery high 5
Access Constraints This measures the level of humanitarian access constraints.4.0No constraintsExtreme constraints
Rakhine is one of the poorest and least developed states in Myanmar, and home to the Rohingya, a primarily Muslim and persecuted minority in Myanmar. The Rohingya are not officially recognised by the Myanmar Government, who considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, effectively rendering the Rohingya stateless.
Since 1978, Rakhine has seen numerous incidents of state violence against its Rohingya population. An extreme episode of violence beginning in August 2017 triggered the displacement of more than 700,000 Rohingyas from Rakhine to Bangladesh.?
At the same time, the Arakan Army (AA), a Rakhine ethnic armed group has led an insurgency in the state that has escalated since January 2019. The AA claims to seek self-determination for the multi-ethnic people of Rakhine state. The northern and central townships of Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Rathedaung, and Buthidaung have been most affected by conflict.?
Clashes and landmine contamination near Rohingya villages have resulted in hundreds of casualties and extensive damage to civilian infrastructure such as schools. Extreme human rights violations by the Tatmadaw and AA, including arbitrary detention, restrictions on movement, and extortion pose a significant protection risk for the 600,000 Rohingya that remain in Rakhine.?
More than 160,000 people are displaced across the state; 130,000 of them have been displaced since 2012. Protracted and repeated displacement, coupled with the stateless status of the Rohingya, have left them confined in camps with no access to healthcare, education, or livelihood opportunities. ?
No significant recent humanitarian developments. This crisis is being monitored by our analysis team.
ACAPS' team is daily monitoring the impact of COVID-19. Find more information related to the outbreak here. For more information related to the outbreak in Rakhine, see content below.
VERY HIGH CONSTRAINTS
Access continues to be problematic for populations in need and for humanitarian workers. Rohingyas in Rakhine state continue to experience systematic discriminatory policies and are subject to severe movement constraints and restricted access to basic services. Entry restrictions for international aid organisations limit access to the region.
The use of landmines is particularly problematic in Myanmar, the only country in the world whose military still deploys landmines. A recent escalation of violence between Myanmar forces and the Arakan Army in Rakhine state has resulted in a spike in landmine fatalities and injuries. The use of landmines poses a major protection risk to civilians in Rakhine state. Civilians collecting food or supplies from the surrounding forests as well as migrants and farmers travelling through fields are most at-risk.
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The end of 2019 saw intensified conflict between the Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) and the Arakan Army. Armed clashes resulted in 9,000 new displacements in November 2019 and mine contamination and shelling in Rohingya villages has caused a spike in civilian casualties in early 2020, particularly in the northern townships of Buthidaung, Rathedaung, and Kyauktaw. Units of the Arakan Army have advanced to more southern areas of Rakhine, which will likely cause an increase in humanitarian needs in townships previously less affected by the conflict.?
Meanwhile, access constraints continue to pose challenges for humanitarian organisations and people in need. In 2020, the government added new restrictions for organisations wanting to access affected areas: 8 of 17 townships in Rakhine have become inaccessible or extremely restricted for most organisations, leaving at least 100,000 people with limited access to essential services and humanitarian assistance. Additionally, an IDP camp in Kyaukphu hosting nearly 1,000 people closed, the third camp closure since 2018, when the government announced plans to transfer IDPs to permanent settlements 2020 will likely see this policy expanded. Shifting from temporary to permanent settlements will further cement ethnic divisions by signalling a permanence to Rohingya displacement.?
In January 2020, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) obliged Myanmar to provide reports of measures taken to protect the Rohingya from genocide. The first report deadline is 23 May 2020 and it is unclear how Myanmar will respond. The government has denied genocide allegations, blocked UN investigators, and constrained humanitarian organisations. As pressure mounts, an emboldened Arakan Army could intensify attacks, particularly in more southern townships. If the government is met with stronger militancy in Rakhine and higher risk of international interference, an intensified crackdown is probable.?
The population in Rakhine has limited capacity to cope with worsened humanitarian conditions. Historical increases in need suggest an additional 50,000 to 100,000 people could see deteriorating in human conditions across the state.
As conflict moves closer to Rohingya villages, civilian casualties will likely increase, with immediate risks highest in the northern townships of Buthidaung, Rathedaung, and Kyauktaw. A shift toward increased conflict in southern townships of Myebon, Ponnagyun, and Minbya will bring landmines and shelling to areas previously less affected by direct conflict.
An increased Tatmadaw presence will likely increase protection risks, such as arbitrary detention of Rohingya, confiscation of property, and forced displacement; as well as movement restrictions limiting access to shelter, farmland, and education. Humanitarian organisations are likely to face additional access limitations, arising both from insecurity and the government seeking to restrict international involvement.?
Food security and livelihoods will be affected as trade routes become disrupted by insecurity and warring parties attempting to control territory. In 2019, some 6,000 hectares of crops went unharvested, which could prove detrimental given that 36% of Rakhine’s population relies on small and medium farms for their livelihoods. As the 2020 May-October harvest approaches, food production is likely to decrease further as farmers avoid fields for fear of landmines, crossfire, and detention.?
WASH needs will increase, particularly for IDPs with limited access to clean water. As water sources in the camps dry up during the March-May hot season, and water stagnation and flooding occurs during the May-October monsoon season, IDPs will become more dependent on contaminated water, increasing the risk of water-borne diseases.?
Protection: Armed conflict and landmine contamination in Rohingya villages has led to a spike in civilian casualties. Extreme human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, restrictions on movement, and extortion, pose a significant protection risk for the 600,000 Rohingya in Rakhine.?
WASH: IDPs, especially those confined to camps, have limited access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Available water sources dry up in the dry season (March-May) and monsoon season (May-September) brings stagnating water. Both increase the dependence of IDPs on contaminated water, elevating the risk of waterborne disease.?
Food and Livelihoods: Disruption of trade routes due to conflict has resulted in shortages of food rations, especially in southern Chin state. Fear of landmines, shelling, and arbitrary detention has kept farmers from their fields, resulting in low crop production in 2019. Approximately 36% of Rakhine’s population relies on small and medium farms for their livelihood.?
Information Gaps and Needs
There is very little information regarding the number of IDPs in Rakhine state or their location. As of January 2020, government estimates report 40,000 people displaced since the end of 2018, while the Rakhine Ethnic Congress places the number at 106,000. UN estimates claim between 30,000-50,000. Access restrictions in townships heavily affected by conflict as well as government-run IDP settlements make it difficult to verify the number of displaced people.
Food Shortages: Paletwa Township
Intensification of conflict in Rakhine state has forced the closure of markets and trade routes. Since early February, the Kaladan River trade route and the road routes leading into Paletwa township in southern Chin state have been closed due to insecurity. Reports indicate that food rations are diminished. On 8 March, the Arakan Army (AA) announced they will allow the delivery of 6,000 sacks of rice to Paletwa township in Chin state, but security concerns have kept the delivery from happening. On 16 March, the Tatmadaw donated 100 bags of rice to the local administration; it is yet to be distributed. ?
Impact of COVID-19
Rakhine state was largely unaffected by COVID-19 until cases surged over 16-25 August, with 80 new cases reported. Rakhine was put into partial lockdown beginning 20 August because of the surge and high number of locally transmitted cases. COVID-19 was first declared in the state on 23 March (two cases).?
IDPs in Rakhine are particularly vulnerable. Over 4,000 live across 30 sites in Sittwe, the state capital, and over 18,000 IDPs are located across 26 sites in Mrauk-U town. On 31 August, Taung Paw IDP relocation site confirmed its first case of locally transmitted COVID-19. This raises a number of concerns given the unsanitary and densely populated housing in camp settings, making it difficult to follow physical distancing and other COVID-19 containment measures. The situation is aggravated by the monsoon season, with flooding in Minbya and Rathedaung township. Humanitarian access is constrained across the state.?
ACAPS is closely monitoring COVID-19 developments and their potential humanitarian impact.