The annual British aid budget for Burma is almost £90 million a year, but not enough of it is reaching people from ethnic minorities who have fled attacks by the Burmese military.
In eastern Burma, around a quarter of a million people from ethnic groups now live in temporary camps in the country, or refugee camps on the border in Thailand. Most have fled attacks by the Burmese military. They have lost everything, and many have experienced or witnessed horrific human rights violations. Killing, rapes, torture. Confined to camps by government or military restrictions and because of the fear of further conflict and human rights violations, they are dependent on aid.
But for the international community, they are not a priority.
Conditions in the camps are harsh, getting proper shelter, food, medicine and medical care is a struggle. Children are missing out on a proper education. All because not enough aid is being given to support them, despite aid budgets for Burma increasing in recent years.
Ethnic Karen refugees living in camps in Thailand have told Burma Campaign UK that cuts in the aid they receive make them feel like the international community is trying to starve them back into Burma even though it isn’t safe for them to return.
DFID claims it is giving more aid to ethnic areas in Burma, but it is money for economic development, not extra humanitarian assistance to people living in the camps. Their basic humanitarian needs should be met before we start spending aid money on things like new motorways in Rangoon.
The proportion of British aid spent on humanitarian aid, which helps refugees and internally displaced people, has fallen, and now makes up just 17 percent of the budget.
The International Development Committee has also requested DFID look again and the balance of aid spending in Burma with a view to increasing aid to the most vulnerable refugees and internally displaced people.
“Economic development is important, but people who have lost everything and have no way to earn a living should not be left in squalid camps without proper shelter, healthcare, food and education for their children”, said Anna Roberts, Executive Director of Burma Campaign UK. “They must be prioritised when decisions on aid spending are made.”
Burma Campaign UK to asking supporters to write to DFID. The action is on our website here.