Displaced families in Kachin State, Myanmar spent last Christmas Day in an emergency shelter, and New Years Day in a hastily constructed bunker as mortar shells blasted around them.
This situation has become commonplace for hundreds of Kachin children, who have fled conflict and are surviving with their families in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps on the border of Myanmar and China. The hardest to reach of these camps are situated high in the mountains, with freezing conditions and very little access to aid. Families have fled to these remote areas in the hope of finding safety, and yet are subject to regular military occupation and attack.
Spending Christmas Day in a shelter is not the worst these children have endured. 3,000 civillians from Zai Awng camp have endured regular shelling and military occupation, forcing them to the Chinese border a number of times, only to be beaten and turned away. A new settlement called Sha It Yang was eventually created, but it lacks clean water and with one road in and out, is cut off from basic supplies.
Children have witnessed terrifying attacks, been forced to hide in the jungle overnight, lost many of their friends and family on the journey, only to end up in a camp with appalling conditions. Our teacher here said “We are doing the best we can, but naturally the children are quieter, less active and less able to be engaged and creative”.
Thanks to the response of Children on the Edge supporters, we’ve been able to ensure that the two new Centres built in the new camp are warm and safe places, where children can begin to recover from what they’ve been through. Last New Year’s fireworks across the border were terrifying for them, we are hoping this year they feel safe enough to enjoy them.
Children on the Edge remain the only organisation providing ongoing support to young children in these remote camps. Going into 2018 we will be actively seeking support for this crisis that the world has overlooked. One teacher said “The wider community is so tired of the fighting, they just want to go home, and they don’t understand why the world isn’t paying attention”.
Find out more about our work in Kachin State.