Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Halting UN aid to Kachin refugees will have dire impact say aid groups

 Halting UN aid to Kachin refugees will have dire impact say aid groups

The suspension of United Nations (UN) aid convoys to refugee camps in Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) territory will lead to a “major crisis” in a very short time aid groups warn.

UN aid convoys have been blocked from entering KIO territory since October 27th explains Doi Pyi Sa, head of the KIO’s IDPs and Refugee Relief Committee (IRRC).

“We have to find a solution ourselves. . . if this continues for a long time then we have to find another way to rebuild shelters” says, Doi Pyi Sa. The UN had been planning to send building materials to help rebuild more than 1,000 shelters, this has all been delayed on the orders of government authorities.

Various UN agencies including the World Food Program (WFP) and UNICEF were also supposed to be delivering food aid to the refugees living in KIO areas this month but because of the government's refusal to allow convoys to proceed many problems are expected. “There are so much problems now, some places have only enough rations for a month, some just 15 days,” says Sai Sai Hkam of the Metta Foundation.

According to the Metta Foundation's chief NGO's like his are in discussion with UN’s agencies to bring about a resolution to what many fear could be become a full blown crisis.

“We are preparing for the emergency situation as well as trying to prevent reaching a situation where there is a shortage of rations,” says Sai Sai Hkam.

In place of the UN, local NGOs and church groups including Wunpawng Ninghtoi (WPN), Metta Foundation, Karuna Foundation and the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) are helping close the gap created by the blocking of the UN convoys.

A coalition of 9 NGO's a part of a working coalition that provides basic food supplies for internally displaced people (IDP) like rice and dried beans. They are also giving financial support for the IDPs who are living in remote areas where transportation is difficult, says Sai Sai Hkam.

IDPs living in and around Mai Ja Yang, the KIO's second largest town are in need of warm clothes, says Zai Du from WPN. There are currently more than 60,000 IDPs staying in the KIO territory along the Chinese border. The large scale displacement began shortly after a 17 year ceasefire between the Burma army and KIO ended in June 2011.

Since the Kachin conflict began Burmese government authorities have alternated between allowing UN aid convoys access to the camps in KIO areas and then blocking these shipments for reasons that appear to be unrelated to the conditions and needs of the refugees. The UN was first allowed to make aid shipments to Mai Ja Yang the KIO's second largest town in April 2012. UN convoys were unable to reach Laiza the KIO's de facto capital with aid convoys until September 2013.

Tensions between the KIO and the government have increased significantly since an army shell killed 23 cadets in Laiza on November 23. In light of the increased tensions many aid workers on the ground do not expect the UN convoys to be allowed to reenter KIO areas any time soon.


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