Expert UNHCR helps boat to reach those in need in Myanmar via @ ACNURamericas

Posted on January 15, 2013 – 00:00
A journey through Asia - my Asia travels: November 2011

en barcos ayuda a ACNUR a llegar a los necesitados en Myanmar Interview: Expert UNHCR helps boat to reach those in need in Myanmar

Tuesday 15. January 2013 16:00 Age: 204 days

© UNHCR / V.Tan

The boat expert Bo Colomby works as a consultant with UNHCR in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar, recently registered area high rates of displacement.

Maungdaw, Myanmar, January 14 (UNHCR) - Nestled in the remote western Myanmar, Rakhine State jumped to public attention when intercommunal violence erupted six months ago. The UN agency for refugees has been working there since 1994, helping Bangladesh Muslim returnees and stateless persons in northern Rakhine State. In this region rivers with few paved roads, UNHCR staff has relied on speedboats to reach communities. The expert consultant agency boats, Bo Colomby, says that the distance traveled by boat each year could be equivalent to going around the world three or four times. And is ready to increase as UNHCR works to help thousands of people displaced by violence last year in the islands further south. The regional public information entrusted UNHCR in Bangkok, Vivian Tan, spoke to Colomby on ship operations of the agency. Excerpts from the interview:

How did working with boats and UNHCR?

I'm a journalist / filmmaker by training, but I got into the boats while living on an island on the west coast of Canada in the '70s. Due to heavy snow and rain, the roads were only usable in the summer so that depended heavily on the boats to move around. I got involved in construction, repair, and later I became a boat owner. I also had formal training in design and construction of ships at that time. In the early 90s, before international sanctions began, came to Myanmar and formed a company to build ships.

I agreed with UNHCR in 1994, when he was in Rakhine State with boats helping an NGO working in malaria testing. UNHCR was working in Maungdaw and had some problems with boats. I worked with UNHCR in setting up a Maritime Transportation System for operation in northern Rakhine State. This included staff training in management, maintenance and operations. I helped recruit and train licensed craft patterns Myanmar using as a basis a speedboat professional agenda.

Why UNHCR needs speedboats in Rakhine State?

At first, most of the field operations were water UNHCR. No boat operation, there would be no field operation. All northern Maungdaw and Buthidaung north and south were only accessible by boat. Local boats were not safe or effective. In recent years they have built more roads in northern Rakhine State, so the use of ships has decreased somewhat. Even now the roads are sometimes swept by monsoon rains. This is a waterfront, a maritime culture, so we're always going to need boats.

Are there specific problems to operate boats in this area?

These are difficult waters to navigate, with strong tidal flows and currents at the mouth of the various rivers. The water is deep in some parts, but much less profound when you approach the coast, so small boats are needed to navigate in these areas.

During the monsoon season, from mid-May to October, huge volumes of water flow of streams and rivers and can create swirls. You can still travel, but we need bigger boats for turbulent waters. The trip should only be done in estoas tide, especially to go out and reach the bottom Kaladan River [near Sittwe, capital of Rakhine State].


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