International nongovernmental organizations providing humanitarian assistance to the crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine state have been accused of favoring Muslim Rohingya communities over the Buddhist ethnic Rakhine population — creating serious challenges for the emergency response.
Waves of violence in 2012 between the two communities displaced more than 139,000 people, with thousands of houses burned and an estimated 300 dead. The greatest numbers of those affected and now living in camps are the minority Muslim Rohingya, who suffer endemic persecution and discrimination. Denied citizenship, the Rohingya are considered illegal “Bengali” immigrants, although many have lived in Myanmar for generations.
Relief efforts over the past two years have provided emergency services to those worst affected by the conflict — primarily displaced Rohingya communities, as well as the smaller numbers of ethnic Rakhine whose houses were destroyed. The needs-based approach lies at the core of humanitarian action, Nicolas Louis, head of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department in Myanmar, explained to Devex.
“You cannot compromise on principles — impartiality being one of the key pillars. Impartiality means needs based,” he said.