"Severe weather conditions and heavy rainfall could result in the deaths of thousands of Rohingya"
By Jared Ferrie
March 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Myanmar tops a list of countries where the ability of aid groups to reach people in need has worsened in the past six months, the Geneva-based research group ACAPS has said.
In examining 37 countries, ACAPS analysts considered nine indicators, including violence against humanitarian workers and restrictions preventing people from reaching aid.
"Myanmar is the country where humanitarian access has deteriorated the most, as access for the Rohingya population has become increasingly difficult," the group said in a statement.
The ACAPS report preceded another released Tuesday by a British parliamentary committee, which warned floods and disease could kill thousands of Rohingya refugees in camps in neighbouring Bangladesh.
The chair of the International Development Committee, Stephen Twigg, said in a statement that time was running out, adding that donors "must work with the Bangladesh government".
"Substantial numbers of refugees are about to face another crisis. With the weather about to turn, the fragile safety and sanctuary that the Rohingya have found in temporary camps provided by Bangladesh is in jeopardy," Twigg said.
United Nations' officials say nearly 700,000 Muslim Rohingya have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar to Bangladesh.
That came after militant attacks in August sparked a crackdown, led by security forces, in Rakhine state that the U.N. and United States have said constitutes ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar has repeatedly denied reports implicating soldiers in widespread abuses of Rohingya civilians, particularly in Maungdaw, a border district in western Rakhine State.
Although the Myanmar government had allowed some groups to access the district, it was "in a short-term and unpredictable manner", said Pierre Peron, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Myanmar.
"Most humanitarian organizations that had been working in Maungdaw District for years have still not been able to resume life-saving programmes for some of the most vulnerable people in the world," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation via email.
A Myanmar government spokesman was unavailable for comment.
The British parliamentary committee said the situation for Rohingya would likely worsen, with heavy rains expected to begin within days, followed by the cyclone season.
"Severe weather conditions and heavy rainfall could result in the deaths of thousands of Rohingya," the IDC said.
The committee warned that the camps in Bangladesh are ill-equipped to withstand the 2.5 metres of heaviest rains predicted to fall from June through August. The camps were built quickly, with shelters in places prone to landslides and flooding.
Poor sanitation, as well as a low vaccination rate among Rohingya who had limited access to healthcare in Myanmar, meant flooding would likely bring disease, the IDC said.
ACAPS said humanitarian access had also deteriorated in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Libya, Mali, Pakistan and Turkey.
(Reporting by Jared Ferrie; Editing by Robert Carmichael. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, resilience and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)
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