DVB Multimedia Group

Australia to provide an extra $9 million in aid

Karen refugees sell vegetables at the Mae La refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border. (Reuters)

Australia has announced plans to provide Burma with additional aid to assist communities displaced by conflict and natural disasters.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said the Australian $12 million (US$9.2 million) in extra financial assistance would be used “to help address the legacy of decades of civil conflict and vulnerability to natural disaster” in Burma.

Speaking to DVB on Friday, Australia‘s ambassador to Burma, Nicholas Coppel, said that $2.6 million of the figure would be given to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to assist refugees in camps on the Thai-Burmese border.

Camps for people displaced by conflict in Arakan, Kachin and Shan states will also receive a share of the aid through the ICRC, he added.

The ambassador, who visited the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand last year, called conditions there “very restricting and demoralising”.

“There are many children born, growing up in those unhealthy conditions [and] adults who have been affected by the conflict. It is not a good environment for children growing up,” he said.

The focus of the funding “is to improve the conditions for the voluntary return of refugees” through livelihood programmes such as training in financial literacy and education, he added.

Some funding will also go to support victims of landmines through the Orthopaedic Rehabilitation Centre in the Karen State capital Hpa-an.

According to The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, Burma ranks third after Colombia and Afghanistan for the highest landmine casualty rates in the world, with the southeastern part of the country being one of the most affected.

The United Nations Population Fund will also receive $1.15 million for a mobile clinic initiative to provide support for rape victims and maternal and reproductive health care, as well as legal referral support, the ambassador said.

“They will also be providing a new programme, Women and Girls First, so assistance will be provided to the running of mobile clinics and a paralegal programme that can build capacity with police and prosecutors and other actors to ensure appropriate responses to cases of gender- and sexual-based violence.”

Australia’s has provided $50 million in humanitarian assistance to Burma since 2012.