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The ICRC in Myanmar

30-06-2014 Overview

The ICRC established a permanent presence in Myanmar in 1986. Since January 2013 it has been gradually expanding its activities in the country, providing vital humanitarian assistance to people affected by intercommunal violence in Rakhine State and armed conflict in the northeast of the country. It works to improve access to health-care services and clean water, and to restore livelihoods. The organization also visits places of detention throughout Myanmar and maintains a regular dialogue with the authorities on detainee welfare issues. Many of its programmes in support of needy communities are carried out jointly with the Myanmar Red Cross.

Visiting detainees

The Myanmar government granted the ICRC approval to resume visits to places of detention in 2013, after a five-year gap. Since visits resumed, the ICRC has conducted sanitation and health infrastructure projects that have improved living conditions for more than 30,000 detainees.

During prison visits, ICRC staff tour the premises to evaluate living conditions and treatment and to talk in private with the detainees of their choice. They only discuss findings and recommendations concerning detainee welfare with the authorities concerned.

The ICRC also organizes family visits and helps detainees to stay in touch with their relatives through exchanging letters bearing family news (Red Cross messages).

Improving health-care access

The ICRC strives to strengthen the health-care system in areas affected by violence and armed conflict, and in Kachin State works towards this objective in both government and non-government controlled areas. Projects are currently underway to overhaul water, sanitation and waste management infrastructure in 14 health facilities (hospitals and health-care centres) in Rakhine State and Kachin State. The ICRC also donates medicine and medical consumables to health-care facilities and supports their vaccination programmes. It develops the expertise of Myanmar medical personnel through delivering training in areas such as primary trauma care and weapon-wounded surgical techniques, and through training and financial support to midwives and other key staff.

Physical rehabilitation services

Landmines and unexploded ordnance are a serious issue in Myanmar and continue to claim victims. For more than 20 years, the ICRC has provided financial and technical support to physical rehabilitation programmes in the country. Since 2013, nearly 6,000 physically disabled people have received artificial limbs at centres supported by the ICRC, such as the Myanmar Red Cross-run centre in Hpa-an.

The ICRC and the Red Cross also run a physical rehabilitation outreach programme enabling disabled patients from remote areas in eight regions to be fitted with artificial limbs.

Supporting needy communities

The ICRC seeks to help communities affected by intercommunal violence and armed conflict, particularly those living in remote villages or in camps for displaced people. With the Myanmar Red Cross, the organization delivers drinking water to tens of thousands of needy people in Rakhine State. Its economic security programmes provide winter clothing, household items such as cooking sets and bedding, agricultural tools, seed and fertilizers, fishing nets, and vocational training to communities affected by violence, thereby supporting the livelihoods of thousands of families in both Rakhine and Kachin States.

Promoting humanitarian law

The ICRC promotes respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) through conducting workshops for the Myanmar Army and armed non-state actors, and by sponsoring government officials and academics to attend regional conferences and courses, including a postgraduate course in IHL offered by the NALSAR Law University in Hyderabad, India. The ICRC also delivers seminars on human rights and international norms of policing to the Myanmar police force.

Partnership with the Myanmar Red Cross

The ICRC works in close cooperation with the Myanmar Red Cross in organizational development, disaster risk reduction and response, and restoring family links. It contributes strongly to training Red Cross staff and volunteers in a variety of areas including first aid, and the dissemination of both international humanitarian and human rights law.

Organizational presence in Myanmar

Besides its delegation in Yangon, the ICRC has offices in Rakhine State (Sittwe and Mrauk-U), Kayen State (Hpa-an), Kachin State (Myitkyina) and in Mandalay, from where it covers Shan State.