Myanmar has blocked all UN aid agencies from delivering vital supplies of food, water and medicine to thousands of civilians at the centre of a violent military campaign in Rakhine state, a media report said on Monday.
The world body halted distributions in the state after militants attacked government forces on August 25 and the Army responded with a counter-offensive that has killed over 400 people including militants and civilians, the Guardian report said.
The Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar told the daily that deliveries were suspended “because the security situation and government field-visit restrictions rendered us unable to distribute assistance”, suggesting authorities were not providing permission to operate.
“The UN is in close contact with authorities to ensure that humanitarian operations can resume as soon as possible,” it said, adding “Aid was being delivered to other parts of Rakhine state.”
In the deadly violence, the military is accused of atrocities against the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority, tens of thousands of whom have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, many with bullet wounds, according to the UN.
Staff from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef), have not conducted any field work in northern Rakhine for more than a week, the coordinator told the Guardian.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said that it also had to suspend distributions to other parts of the state, leaving a quarter of a million people without regular food access.
Sixteen major non-government aid organisations, including Oxfam and Save the Children, were denied access to the conflict area.
An estimated 1.1 million Rohingya live in Myanmar, which refuses to grant them citizenship and has been internationally condemned for its treatment of the ethnic minority.
Although the Rohingya have suffered oppression for decades, the recent bout of violence is seen as a dangerous escalation because it was sparked by a new Rohingya militant group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the Guardian report added.