Children and women internally displaced by Myanmar’s Kachin conflict need more humanitarian assistance
By Ye Lwin
Lumai was in an advance stage of pregnancy at the time she had to run away. On the way, the family had to hide in the forests for a week. Empty-handed, the family arrived at the Momauk Baptist Church camp in the face of extreme hardship.
UNICEF family kits containing items such as blanket and mosquito net, some clothes and kitchen utensils, soap and bucket brought some relief and helped the family to organize a living in the camp. The family kits provided basic essential items that IDP families found useful. Each kit costs about Kyats 75,000 (US$ 95 approximately) and comes with 25 items.
“I gave birth to my daughter a month after our arrival in the camp. “My baby was vaccinated against polio, DPT and BCG soon after we arrived at the camp,” said Lumai, “We feel secured here even though the room is too crowded with eight family members living in it.”
The conflict in Kachin forced about 50,000 people into displacement in central and south eastern part of the Kachin State. Majority of the IDPs are women and children. They sought shelter in churches and monasteries with the support of humanitarian organizations.
The increased flow of new IDPs caused deteriorating sanitary conditions. “In support from UNICEF, we built 20 latrines in the camps in Bamaw. We will build 10 more,” Ja Nu, area coordinator of Metta Foundation, one of the UNICEF’s local partner for emergency response in Kachin.
After an Interagency Rapid Assessment was conducted on the situation and needs of the people affected by the conflict in September 2011, UNICEF responded through partners to provide essential medicines to treat 35,000 people, family kits have reached 1,550 families. An additional 2,600 families received mosquito nets and 2,350 families received winter blankets. UNICEF has helped build 77 latrines and some 200 more are being built, while water purification materials were provided across 60 camps.
UNICEF also supported school materials in selected townships and in partnership with local NGOs, helped establish Child Friendly Spaces in the IDP sites.
“A month after the conflict began, many IDP families came to take refuge in my monastery. It was very difficult to arrange even their basic needs such as food, health care and shelter. Thankfully humanitarian agencies have come forward. Some NGOs organized shelters, family kits and essential medicines were received from UNICEF and food from WFP,” said Venerable Tissa, presiding Buddhist monk from Yoegyi Myoma Monastery in which about 270 IDPs are living.
While access to the non-government controlled area has remained extremely constrained, The United Nations agencies including UNICEF, UNHCR and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA) organized a first-ever humanitarian convoy to the non-government controlled Laiza in December 2011, delivering essential non-food items. The UN is negotiating access for a second UN convoy with humanitarian assistance to reach IDPs in the in the non-government controlled areas.
The IDPs are eager to reunite with their families at home. The hopes of some 60,000 IDPs spread over government-controlled and non-government controlled conflict areas in Kachin depend on the peace process and on reaching a ceasefire agreement.
“I cannot wait to return home with my family even though there is nothing left, my house was burnt and paddies destroyed, we will stay here in the camp until ceasefire. We would greatly appreciate receiving continued assistance to survive here and to settle back at home,” said Saing Mai, 25 year old mother of a young child from IDPs camp in Robert Church.
With no resolution in view, vast majority of IDPs continue to live in need of further humanitarian assistance. “The funds are fast drying up. We are facing resource constraints to carry on our support to meet even the basic needs of the displaced children, women and families,” said Yumi Bae, UNICEF’s Chief of Field Operations, “We need funding at least until the end of 2012, hoping it will be safe for the IDPs to return home by then.”