By Aishwarya Rai, International News Editor
On Monday, October 16, The Guardian learned that the United Nations food aid agency withdrew a crucial report about the Rohingya population on Myanmar’s government’s request. In July an assessment by the World Food Programme (WFP) was reported regarding children under the age of five in majority-Muslim areas: 80,000 were found to be “wasting,” which is considered a fatal condition of rapid weight loss, according to the Guardian. The report has now been withdrawn and a statement has been issued in its place, stating that Myanmar and WFP were now “collaborating on a revised version” and that the report should not be cited in any way.
WFP stated that the July study had been withdrawn from the website “following a request by the government to conduct a joint review.” This revision will supposedly include “representatives from various ministries, and will respond to the need for a common approach.” However, David Beasley, WFP’s executive director has taken a stance against this ‘revision.’ He told the Guardian on October 17 that the agency will in fact republish the report “in its original form” and that “the assessment should not have been removed…the World Food Programme stands firmly behind the findings of the report.”
United Nations has come under a lot of criticism regarding the Rohingya population as its form of dealing with the crisis has been deemed unsatisfactory and underwhelming. The main criticisms are that the report was removed even though it could be proof for aiding the Rohingya population of 1.1 million in Myanmar and that the UN has aided very little in terms of the Rohingya people fleeing to Bangladesh. Additionally, Renata Lok-Dessallien, the UN resident coordinator and organization’s most senior figure in Myanmar is leaving at the end of the month’ Lok-Dessallien has been hit with allegations that she not only suppressed another report condemning the UN’s approach to the Rohingya crisis, but also that she “prevented human rights advocates from visiting sensitive Rohingya areas,” according to BBC. She is leaving the middle of the crisis with no replacement publicly announced as yet.
The report also includes details that the WFP had made food aid cuts to internally displaced Rohingya. This has made many members of the agency nervous about the level of attention the report would receive, knowing that “it was potentially damaging.” Another concern on the WFP and UN relationship is that in the past, the WFP country office seemed to have been more concerned with maintaining its relationship with the government rather than humanitarian needs, in order to raise money.
The government was not expected to have been pleased about the report given details such as extreme food deprivation in one-third of all homes in Maungdaw, a Rohingya district and that humanitarian assistance is required for more than 225,000 people, which falls in opposition to the government’s aid blockade to Rakhine. The assessment managed to point out causes of such deprivations, such as security forced preventing Rohingya from reaching markets and their crops, according to the Guardian.
At present, humanitarian aid and leadership reforms in aid-oriented organizations such as the United Nations, independent of side-regime influences seems to be of the highest priority.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 24th print edition.
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