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Kachin aid groups running on empty

Kachin IDPs line up for food rations along the Burmese-Chinese border. The area has witnessed an upsurge in fighting between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)
(Courtesy of the Kachin Women's Association)

Kachin aid groups are running out of means to help more than 25,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the border between Myanmar and China.

"The situation is worsening now because no one here has the capacity to support them," La Rip, coordinator for the Relief Action Network for IDPs and Refugees (RANIR), incorporating 12 local community organizations, told IRIN from the border town of Laiza.

Civil departments from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) - the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) - have been providing most of the food at 15 makeshift camps around the border, La Rip said. But as the conflict enters it fourth month, additional support is urgently needed, he added.

"People are getting only a small amount of rice a day, without any nutritional support," said La Rip. "We are at the moment worried about their food security and shelter, with winter advancing."

Since 9 June, tens of thousands of civilians have fled from rural parts of eastern Kachin State, when the Burmese Army attacked the KIA, ending a 17-year-old ceasefire between the two armies and sending thousands of civilians fleeing to the Kachin-China border, towns and jungle areas.

Much of the conflict focuses on Kachin resistance to a government plan to recruit their men into a single state-run border guard force.

Most IDPs are living in temporary bamboo shelters with plastic sheet roofing. The crowded living conditions, poor sanitation and lack of clean water have led to illness - seven children died, mainly of diarrhoea and malaria, in Laiza during August. At one site, 2,000 people are sharing 10 toilets, say aid workers.

"We are in very urgent need of medicine," said Mai Ja, an aid worker with the Kachin Women's Association Thailand, who is based in a camp supporting 3,000 IDPs along the border.

The uprooted civilians also need school supplies, psycho-social support, and shelter as winter approaches, La Rip said.

RANIR has raised more than US$312,000 for relief needs, mainly from the KIO and Kachin communities in Myanmar, China and abroad. But that money is nearly gone, Mai Ja said.

A $2.4 million request sent to the international funding community in July has had little response, aside from some $38,000 donated by two European NGOs, money that is still being processed.

Meanwhile, as of 13 September, the fighting continues.

"People are really afraid to go back to their villages," La Rip said.

Since fighting broke out in June, the UN and other international agencies have not had access to the area.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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