The regional director of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for Asia-Pacific, Christine Cipolla, went to Myanmar last week for meetings with the ministries of the State Board of Directors, in particular the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Health. The meetings responded to key humanitarian concerns and requests expressed by ICRC President Peter Maurer during his visit to Myanmar in June 2021.
During meetings in Nay Pyi Taw from June 15 to 18, the regional director discussed the humanitarian response of the ICRC and expressed his deep concern in the face of the worsening of armed conflicts and other situations of violence in the States and regions of the country, as well as the growing civilian toll.
While the working conditions of the ICRC are increasingly difficult and access to hundreds of thousands of people who need urgent help remains very limited, the regional director has called for the facilitation of humanitarian responses in Chin, Kayah and Kayin States, as well as in Magway or Sagaing Regions, including areas where armed ethnic organizations are present. Regarding the state of Rakhine, she also stressed that after more than eighteen months without major confrontations and while preventive measures against the COVVI-19 are gradually lifted, the restrictions on humanitarian access in place since early 2019 should be reassessed.
“Many communities displaced by violence are in dire need of basic necessities – such as food, water and shelter – and lack access to healthcare and other essential services. The parties to the conflict must do everything possible to facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of neutral forces. and impartial humanitarian aid,” the regional director said. “I reiterated the ICRC offer to do more for the most needy people in the old and new conflict areas, because the ICRC is one of the few organizations capable of working in the very difficult safety environment of today and which enjoys the confidence of all parties”.
During her visit, the regional director also called for the fastest possible resumption of CICR visits and families in prisons, both suspended by the Myanmar authorities in March 2020, following the appearance of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world.
“Capitalizing on the recent improvement in the situation of the COVVI-19 and at a time of increasing concern and distress of the families of prisoners, I asked for the gradual resumption of our humanitarian visits and stressed the importance of allowing families to be in contact with their loved ones. in jail as soon as possible,” the regional director said.
The ICRC regrets that no agreement on these two points has yet been reached with the detaining authorities, but remains determined to continue its action on behalf of detainees and their families.
As part of the ICRC’s bilateral and confidential dialogue with all parties to conflicts, the regional director also shared the ICRC’s point of view on issues relating to respect for international humanitarian law and other applicable standards on the use of force by the armed and security forces.
Finally, the ICRC regional director met with leaders of the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) to discuss continued cooperation and coordination at a time of increasing humanitarian needs. She stressed the importance of building on the complementarity of the respective mandates, expertise and capacities of the ICRC and the MRCS to help more people, especially in hard-to-reach areas. In the current polarized environment, the two organizations reiterated their commitment to defend the principles of humanitarian action and to act in accordance with the fundamental principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence of the International Movement of the Red Cross and the Red Croissant.