06/12/2018, 13.56
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Desperation among displaced in Kachin refugee camps: 'We do not want to stay here'

by Lawrence Jangma Gam

The civil war in the northern state has entered its seventh year. The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has exceeded 150,000. Some tell of their flight from their homes and of their life in the reception facilities.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - The civil war in the northern state of Kachin has entered its seventh year. On 9 June 2011 Tatmadaw [the Burmese army and rebels of the Kachin Independence Army (Kia) interrupted a cease-fire lasting 17 years. Since then, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has exceeded 150,000. Among these, 130 thousand people live in dramatic conditions in the 165 camps built in Kachin and in the north of the neighboring ethnic state, Shan; 20 thousand are instead accommodated by the host community. In the first six months of 2018 alone, there have been over 6 thousand new IDPs. Here are some of the testimonies gathered by UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) officials in some of the structures.

U Hka Ro Yaw and his wife (photo 2) are now in a temporary shelter in a displacement site in Naung Nan village, Myitkyina Township. U Hka Ro Yaw worked as a school teacher for about 50 years. His children brought him and his wife to Myitkyina, carrying them on their backs after armed clashes broke out near their home in Injangyang Township in late April. One of his daughters said they had to hide in the forest for two weeks before they were able to head towards Myitkyina: “When we heard gunfire and the sound of fighter jets, we carried both of our parents on our backs and went into the forest to hide. We would come back home at night. ” After two weeks, the family finally decided to leave Injangynag after serious aerial bombing in the area. “Elderly people like my parents need healthcare and nutritional support. My father has lost his appetite since he has arrived here.” U Hka Ro Yaw himself said he wanted to go home. “I don’t want to stay here. I want to go back to my village, which is in a mountainous area. I will go home when the fighting stops.”

92-year-old Daw Bauk Nam (photo 1) and her daughter fled their homes as a result of armed clashes in Shan State in 2016. Since then, they have been sheltering in a camp for displaced people in Muse Township. Daw Bauk Nam said living conditions in the camp was difficult for elderly people. “Toilets in the camp are quite far from the shelters and it is not easy for elderly people to go to the toilet, especially at night. There is a camp-based clinic that provides basic healthcare. Elderly people in the camp often get ill and we need to go to the clinic to get treatment or medication. If the case is serious, the clinic transfers the patient to the hospital in town, in which case people need additional support including transportation.”

Ma Nang Mai Awng (photo 3) is not sure when she will be able to go back to school. School holidays were underway, when the 15-year-old and her family had to leave the village. They too have now found refuge in a Myitkyina camp. But Nang Mai is in his third year of high school and would like to become a teacher, to help needy children. "I was terrified when we escaped from the village - says the girl - “I don’t like staying here – too many people and no privacy for changing clothes or taking showers. Everyone can see me even when I sleep. I think I might have to enroll in the school here and will have to buy all the school supplies and uniforms. I am anxious about my education and my future.” 


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