The World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended food aid in Myanmar’s violence-scorched Rakhine state, as the humanitarian situation deteriorates with a surging death toll and tens of thousands - both Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Buddhists - on the move and diplomatic efforts piling.
Aid agencies estimate about 73,000 Rohingya have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh from Myanmar since violence erupted last week, Vivian Tan, regional spokeswoman for U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, told Reuters on Sept. 3.
Tens of thousands more people have crossed by boat and on foot into Bangladesh in 24 hours as they flee violence in western Myanmar, the UNHCR said on Sept. 2.
Relief agencies, including WFP, have repeatedly been accused by Myanmar authorities of allowing their rations to fall into the hands of Rohingya militants, whose attacks on police posts on August 25 sparked the most recent surge in violence.
Around 120,000 people - most of them Rohingya Muslim civilians - have relied on aid hand-outs in camps since 2012, when religious riots killed scores and sparked a crisis which is again burning through Rakhine state.
Over the last five years Rakhine has been cut along ethnic and religious lines, but the current violence is the worst yet.
Aid agencies are routinely accused of a pro-Rohingya bias and the sudden flare-up of unrest has renewed safety concerns, prompting relief work to be pulled back.
“All WFP food assistance operations in Rakhine State have been suspended due to insecurity... affecting 250,000 internally displaced and other most vulnerable populations,” the WFP said in a statement.
The Rohingya, branded illegal immigrants in Myanmar and mostly denied citizenship, make up the vast majority of the dead and displaced since 2012.
In the ongoing bout of violence, 58,600 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, according to the latest figures from UNHCR.
Tens of thousands have been turned away by Bangladeshi border officials, while scores have died trying to cross the Naf river - which divides the two countries - in makeshift boats and even on flotsam.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodğan stressed in holiday greetings to his Kazakh, Senegalese and Nigerian counterparts on Sept. 3 the importance of working together to solve the humanitarian crisis, according to presidential sources.
The sources said Erdoğan gave Eid-al Adha greetings in telephone calls to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Senegal’s President Macky Sall, and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
Earlier this week, Erdogan also discussed the crisis in Myanmar on the phone with the leaders of Pakistan, Iran, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, and Bangladesh.