When conflict resumed in Kachin State after a 17-year ceasefire, many people sought refuge in makeshift displacement camps. Six years later, they are still there. With support from Irish Aid, Trócaire and its local partners are working to improve their living conditions.
Lahpai Hkawn Nan is a 32-year-old mother from Nam Sam Yang village in Kachin State, Myanmar. She lived there with her three children and her grandfather before the conflict in Kachin State resumed in June 2011, after a 17-year ceasefire.
Lahpai and her family had to flee from their village with only a few belongings, leaving behind their property and home. At the time her youngest was only two months’ old, and travelling with such young children and her 94-year-old elderly grandfather was very challenging and risky.
“On July 2011 our family arrived at Woi Chyai IDP (internally displaced persons) camp. At that time there was no shelter for IDPs. We all had to stay together with other IDP families in a hall with a tarpaulin floor. After that the camp management committee built a small single room (eight feet square) made of plywood and it became a shelter for my family. It had no door and no windows but we lived in that tight-corner for five years,” Lahpai recounted.
Humanitarian agencies have been providing shelter in Woi Chyai camp for the last six years, but due to high IDP numbers, families have been living in old and overcrowded communal halls and makeshift shelters built for temporary purposes. Trócaire, in partnership with local NGOs, is providing support to IDPs with new and renovated shelters, food, and improved water and sanitation facilities in the IDP camps in Kachin State.
Lahpai said “There are many problems with living in small makeshift shelters, especially for women, children and elderly people. There were adjacent shelters where other families also lived under one roof of the main hall. There was no private place for the women even to change their dress. While we were there, we also faced many seasonal difficulties – in the summer it was too hot and in the rainy season the floor and walls got wet, which made sleeping difficult. I feared that it would damage the health of my children and my grandfather. The rooms was not safe, I had been worrying for my daughters safety at all time.”
“December 2016 was the only happy moment for me since I become an IDP,” said Lahpai. “The reason is that our family got a chance to move to a newly constructed shelter.” The shelter was built by Metta Development Foundation, in partnership with Trócaire and with the support from Irish Aid.
“The new shelter has two rooms with an attached kitchen and it has space to store our belongings. We have a feeling of safety by having windows and a door in our shelter. Now we are staying in a shelter which is well covered and much better than before. Preparing food for my children and grandfather is easier than before with the attached kitchen. Children also have space to play near our shelter.”
Lahpai has also seen other changes in the camps, including improved livelihood opportunities. “Currently, I am working as a carpenter in construction works of the IDPs camps,” said Lahpai, “I am quite fortunate that I can earn income in order to support my family’s needs.”