On 30 January 2014, reports from Free Burma Rangers stated that Burma Army troops attacked Nam Gau Village in Kachin State, Burma, firing at and capturing 18 villagers. The fighting worsened the following day, with reinforced Burma army troops attacking an additional village to the south with heavy mortar and machine gun fire.
Most residents of both villages had already fled due to a previous attack in November, now nearly all remaining families have fled, despite attempts by the Kachin Independence Army to defend the area.
The backdrop of the current attacks is the breaking of a 17 year long ceasefire in 2011 between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army, the ensuing conflict has taken thousands of lives and forced over 100,000 Kachin people from their homes. They are now living in crowded camps, often cut off from aid and essential services.
Confined within these camps are thousands of Kachin children who cope in very difficult circumstances with very little support for their healthy development. Many of these children, in particular those under the age of 6, have known nothing else but war, with daily life offering little escape from the effects of violence and conflict. These children have no access to psychosocial support.
After the atrocities stepped up, in June 2012 Children on the Edge were able to deliver vital aid (warm clothes, strategic nutrition and toys) to displaced children on the border near China.
As part of this work we conducted a consultation with local groups and a thorough needs assessment. As a result, through partnerships with the Kachin Women’s Organisation and the Kachin Development Group we are providing Early Childhood Development to 1440 children in outlying internally displaced settlements.
Although some aid and support has got through to more accessible areas around Laiza, there are 12 higher altitude camps in the northern part of the state that are still cut off. We are focussing on these areas. As well as establishing 12 child friendly Centres for displaced and traumatised Kachin children, we have created a full programme of Early Childhood Development with a robust curriculum.
The aim is to allow Kachin children who have known nothing but conflict for the past two years, to simply enjoy being children in a vibrant safe place for a few hours a day and provide them the opportunity to mature into healthy, stable young people.
As these recent attacks have made apparent, the problems in Kachin State are not abating. To respond to these needs, alongside the development of 12 Centres, we will be building a training programme for 72 teachers from the IDP camps, with a particular focus on developing child friendly techniques and expertise with children who have experienced trauma.
Find out more about the situation from the latest Human Rights Watch Report, and please consider donating to our work here.