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UN suspends food aid to refugees in Myanmar

Flare-up of unrest renews safety concerns, prompting relief workers to be pulled back as death toll surges.

2 September 2017, 4:19pm
Newly arrived Rohingya refugees sit inside a shelter at the Kutupalang refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh (Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters)
Newly arrived Rohingya refugees sit inside a shelter at the Kutupalang refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh (Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters)
The UN’s World Food Programme has suspended aid works in Myanmar amongst reports that Myanmar’s security forces are targeting the Rohingya Muslim community.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh to escape mass killings they say are being perpetrated by Myanmar forces.

Myanmar officials blame the group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) for the for burning homes, but fleeing Rohingya civilians said a campaign of arson and killings by the Myanmar army is aimed at forcing them out of the country.

“We are coordinating with the authorities to resume distributions for all affected communities as soon as possible, including for any people newly affected by the current unrest," WFP said in a statement on Saturday.

The suspension of food assistance operations would affect 250,000 internally displaced and “other most vulnerable populations”, the statement said.

Of that number, 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 the state.

In recent days, another wave of 58,600 Rohingya have fled the violence to Bangladesh from Myanmar, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

Aid agencies, including the WFP, 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.