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As monsoon hits, relief workers struggle to provide IDPs with shelter, aid

Villagers taking refuge in displacement camps in war-torn Kachin and Shan states are in desperate need of reliable shelter as the monsoon season commences in northern Burma.

According to Mary Twan, the co-founder of the relief group Wunpawng Ninghtwe, makeshift shelters at the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Kachin state’s Mansi and Momauk townships no longer protect the camps’ residents from the seasonal rains. Camps located on inclines were also struggling to deal with soil erosion caused by the heavy downpours.

“Namhkonpar camp in Mansi was affected by erosion after a week of constant rain so we had to relocate two families to safety,” said Mary Tawn, adding that the harsh weather conditions had made transportation to and from the facility difficult and seasonal flu and dengue fever was spreading in the area.

“The camps have been standing for more than two years now and, as the huts were built of plywood, they are now pretty much weathered and unable to protect inhabitants from the rain.”

At a Taaung (Palaung) IDP camp in northern Shan state’s Kutkai township, aid workers were struggling to provide the facility’s more than 400 inhabitants with adequate amounts of aid.

“The IDPs are in need of food and medicine, and the huts they were living in were not in a decent enough condition to protect them from the wind and rain,” said an aid worker who spoke with DVB on the condition of anonymity.

Approximately 100,000 villagers in northern Burma’s Kachin and Shan states have been driven out of their homes into displacement camps after a 17-year ceasefire between the Kachin Independence Army and government collapsed in June 2011.

While the KIA and government-backed peace negotiators agreed to “reduce fighting” between the two sides during a historic meeting in the Kachin state capital of Myitkyina in May, the rebel group has refused to sign another ceasefire deal with Naypyidaw until Burma’s ethnic minorities are granted greater political autonomy.

In June, a ten-truck UN convoy with humanitarian assistance for more than 5,000 people reached IDP camps behind rebel lines in Kachin state for the first time in more than a year. However, the government continues to deny international agencies regular access to displacement camps located in rebel-held territory.


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