6 March 2014

Children with ICRC-donated humanitarian goods (Global New Light of Myanmar).

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) opened a new office in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina on Tuesday, its fifth regional outpost in Burma.

The office will facilitate the ICRC’s humanitarian assistance activities in Kachin State, including rehabilitation programmes for landmine-injury survivors.

“This office will bring us closer to the disabled people who need access to the physical rehabilitation services we provide,” Claudia Matter, the ICRC’s Mandalay-based sub-delegation chief, said in a statement.

“It will also allow us to work in closer cooperation with Myanmar Red Cross Society branches in Kachin, where we jointly provide aid to communities displaced by fighting,” she said.

Although the ICRC has led humanitarian activities in both government and non-government controlled areas of Kachin State for the past year, until today it had no permanent mission in the area. Many of the functions performed by the ICRC’s Mandalay offices will now be steered from Kachin State directly. “It simply puts [ICRC] in a better position to cooperate with the Myanmar Red Cross and with local authorities,” Michael O’Brien, the ICRC communications coordinator in Yangon, told DVB.

Ganish, the joint secretary of the Kachin State Red Cross’ supervision committee, said the opening of the ICRC liaison office would help distribute aid more effectively to remote areas. “Having the ICRC office here will allow us to more effectively provide assistance in remote areas such as Putao and Pangwa,” he said.

According to UN estimates, more than 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Kachin State and northern Shan State over the past two years. Humanitarian access to these populations has often been difficult, especially for those living in areas not controlled by the Burmese government.

Two weeks ago, the Chinese Red Cross made its first-ever offer of aid to internally displaced people in Kachin State, delivering 10,000 aid kits worth more than US$800,000 to be distributed by the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).

The ICRC is the flagship branch of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, which also encompasses 189 national societies. The Geneva-based organization provides technical training and financial support to the Myanmar Red Cross, and conducts activities independent of its local affiliate, including visits to Burma’s jails and monitoring of political prisoners.

The ICRC is currently rehabilitating two hospitals in the KIO-controlled towns of Laiza and Mai Ja Yang with the permission of the president’s office.

Kachin State’s social affairs minister, Bauk Ja, said the opening of the ICRC office will make it easier for aid to get to areas outside of government control. “It will be the best because there are IDPs on both sides, including in areas out of reach by the government,” she said.

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