Families displaced by war in Kachin feel the pinch of dwindling supplies
AS the government kicks off its major five-day peace talks today, civilians displaced by fighting in Kachin State say they are running out of food and medicine and have been unable to return to their homes for several years.
In Kachin and northern Shan State, some 100,000 people remain displaced, according to recent UN figures.
The Pein Myit camp in Mandalay’s Mogok township is one of the many shelters struggling to provide for displaced families.
Fighting between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Tatmadaw has pushed nearly 300 people from Kachin’s Momauk township to Pein Myit. The temporary shelter for mainly Lisu families is sorely short on supplies.
Lee Thar Min, one of the displaced women at Pein Myit, says she and her neighbours often have to scrounge for food.
“We get food from the camp, but because there are so many people, I have to ask for food from here and there as I can,” she said. “I ran away in the middle of the fighting with no time to take anything with me. We need food and medicine.”
“I fled from Lal Sout village in Momauk and now it’s been nearly two years since I have been in a camp,” she added.
In that time Lee Thar Min has been joined by relatives and neighbours from other villages in Momauk. The encampment now includes 80 shelters housing 300 people.
“I want the war to be over so I can go home. I left my garden and my house. I want my children to have opportunities and a good education,” she said.
Most of the displaced children at Pein Myit are school-aged, but are unable to attend classes because they lack identity cards, U A Cee, secretary of the Lisu Development Party, said. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), only 16 percent of “emergency-affected” students in Kachin and Shan states are able to attend school beyond the primary level classes offered at many camps.
But U A Cee said that in the camps that don’t have even volunteer teachers, the state schools are not an option.
“Our children cannot attend the government schools because they will not make identity cards for Lisu, Chinese and Gawrakha,” he said. “We want our children to get the chances they deserve … We are facing many difficulties in the Pein Myit refugee camp. Stopping the war is very important now.”