Border closures and conflict have left hundreds of families without food and basic supplies in Kachin State, Myanmar where Children on the Edge work with displaced communities, living in remote mountain camps. Our food relief programme has just ensured that 970 households received emergency food parcels, to last them a month. Find out more below.
In Myanmar, we support Kachin people who have been internally displaced and forced to live in remote mountain camps on the border with China, following years of fighting and persecution from their own government.
Working with two partner organisations on the ground, we support 15 Early Childhood Development centres, providing just over 400 of the youngest Kachin children access to education and support in safe, colourful classrooms, with trusted adults and plenty of space to play and have fun. However, these centres have been forced to close for nearly a year thanks to a swathe of crises affecting Myanmar right now. They were finally able to open again in January 2022.
A military coup in January last year has created an open dictatorship, with army generals now in absolute power and the country facing economic collapse. Fierce clashes resumed between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the military in spring last year, and this fighting has led to even more instability and fear for the communities we support.
Previously, rounds of peace talks between the government and the KIA created relative stability for the Kachin people, but these talks have stopped and the situation is now far more unpredictable, with fighting getting closer to the mountain camps where the people we support live.
Whilst communication with our partner organisations in Myanmar has been difficult, we were able to ascertain recently that the communities we support are currently facing huge uncertainty, with stress levels sky high. Relative peace until recently, has meant that people were able to cope, as they have been for years, despite the tough situation they are in. But now, they feel unsafe and have far less optimism and joy.
This already dire situation has of course been compounded by the restrictions and impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The border with China (who have a strict zero covid policy) has been closed completely for the past few months, after some coronavirus cases were found to have come in from Myanmar. This has stopped the transit of goods, supplies and migrant workers into Kachin State, which has meant that displaced people living in the mountain camps are now struggling to get hold of food and basic necessities, they have either run out or become unaffordable. Some camps have also faced a shortage of firewood to cook their meals, as they now have to collect wood from deep in the jungle, putting them at risk of tripping landmines.
For the first time since we have started working in Myanmar, despite years of conflict and coronavirus restrictions; food scarcity is now a real problem and people are beginning to starve. Families we support in the displacement camps are facing severe hardship, particularly those people who are unable to forage for food, including the elderly and those with small children. People have been unable to travel around the displacement camps and have been forced to stop working on farms. With jobs lost, travel restricted and borders closed, those living the most hard-to-reach camps have been in desperate need of food and emergency supplies.
“This year is a very tough year for every family in our camp. Some families could not even afford table salt for their meals. We are very pleased to have your assistance during this difficult period.”
To support these communities, we supported a two-day humanitarian food relief programme for the hard-to-reach camps, namely Pa Jau, Sha-it Yang and Maga Yang. Travel to these areas, even for humanitarian relief, was not permitted, but after some negotiation, our local partners were granted access to the most remote camps. They managed to deliver food and Covid prevention materials to 970 households, reaching 4,496 people.
These food parcels contain peanut oil, onions, garlic, eggs, peanuts, potatoes, noodles, sanitiser, face masks and an electric kettle.
“We are running out of our food stock and we could not access the Chinese market for a long time. I am very glad to receive the food you have provided, and I am going to buy the face mask this evening but, now I have it and no need to buy. I would like to say thank you very much for your kind support in these hardships"