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Myanmar’s Kachin State in Ruins 10 Years on from Collapsed Ceasefire

This month marks 10 years since the breakdown of the ceasefire in Myanmar’s northern region Kachin. Since the breakdown, internally displaced persons (IDP’s) have had to live in over 170 displacement camps across Kachin State and northern Shan State in Myanmar. The situation in Kachin has taken a turn for the worse since the military took control in January. It is estimated that 900 people have been killed and 4,674 arrested, charged or sentenced in five months alone.

‘There was very intense gunfire’ says 30 year old Galau Lu Mai about the day she decided to flee to the safety of an IDP camp. Photo : Gyung Dau / Trócaire ‘There was very intense gunfire’ says 30 year old Galau Lu Mai about the day she decided to flee to the safety of an IDP camp. Photo : Gyung Dau / Trócaire

There is an estimated 10,000 IDP’s on top of the 120,000 already displaced persons in need of urgent humanitarian aid and looking for shelter in overcrowded makeshift camps in Kachin. There is a heavy military presence in the area and checkpoints have increased which makes it challenging for IDP’s to move around in search of food and shelter. For five long and difficult months, transport has been blocked and the banking system has collapsed which means access to money is near impossible for civilians and aid organisations to access. The colourful markets which once adorned the region are no longer in operation and prices for goods and supplies have risen to astronomical prices, way above what locals can afford. On top of this, humanitarian organisations like Trócaire are struggling to gain access to those in urgent need of help.

The military is back in charge and there is no progress in Kachin

Newly displaced persons in Kachin have found themselves with no permanent place to live and no food or medical supplies. New IDP’s can typically stay one month at a time in one place but due to a shortage of space, they are forced to move on. Searching for somewhere to stay has become a monthly challenge for them as they endure the daily hardships of their new way of living.

Many new IDP’s have been forced to move out to remote jungles where monsoons and food shortages are a threat to their survival. IDP’s fear that they will never return to their farmland and homes because of this recent conflict. These new IDP’s, in desperate need of help, have effectively become another pressure on older IDP’s who already struggled to survive in makeshift camping sites.

Until the coup, many people in Myanmar had accepted the military as playing a central role. Now, millions see it as a brutal force serving only itself.

For a region rich in jade, timber and mineral wealth, times are hopeless for new and old IDP’s in the area. The military is back in charge and has declared a year-long state of emergency and there is no indication when it will get better.

Pressure is growing on foreign governments as elected parliamentarians and campaign groups push for sanctions. For locals living in armed conflict, the international community has failed massively to help them.

Covid-19 is thought to be worsening but no official data is available

No one knows how many people have contracted Covid-19 in Myanmar but the disease, which has dominated headlines for the past 15 months is not the main worry or stress in Myanmar. To the detriment of Covid-19 recovery efforts, in the months since January, hundreds of thousands of Burmese people have taken part in protests against the coup and in favour of improved living conditions and human rights for all across the island.

The Covid-19 situation is believed to be worsening every day in the overcrowded camps but there is no official data available. The health service systems have been stopped and despite a donation of 1.5 million vaccines from India, many who received their first vaccine will not take the second one. It is feared that vaccines were not safely stored, and locals are too afraid to risk it.

How is Trócaire getting humanitarian aid into Kachin?

IDP camps are hard to access areas in Kachin, but Trócaire’s partners continue to negotiate to access those in need. Trócaire is facing major issues providing cash to local partners but we are continuing our efforts to get support existing and newly displaced communities with food, cash assistance, water and sanitation and emergency kits of essential items like blankets and tarpaulins.

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