Govt Delays Aid Distribution in Northern Burma: UN

By Lawi Weng 17 December 2014

RANGOON — As winter approaches in northern Burma’s Kachin State, some 27,500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are without necessary assistance such as blankets and clothes, according to the United Nations.

In a monthly aid bulletin, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the “volatile security situation and bureaucratic delays” have prevented UN convoys from being authorized to travel into rebel territory, where they regularly deliver aid to IDPs.

The bulletin said that UN convoys have been unable to reach some cross-line areas since September, and called for regular, sustained humanitarian access to all persons affected by the conflict.

The latest UN data estimates that 98,000 people remain displaced in parts of Kachin and northern Shan states, three years after a ceasefire between the government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) broke down.

OCHA said that some 50,000 are still displaced in areas that are not under government control. Of the estimated 27,000 people that are currently inaccessible, about 12,000 are “particularly vulnerable” children, the bulletin said. Those unreachable communities are located near KIA headquarters in Laiza and east of Bhamo.

Pierre Péron, a spokesperson for OCHA, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that some aid from local organizations is reaching the IDPs, but there have been no UN cross-line missions since September. The United Nations is currently working with the government and local NGOs to ensure that aid will be delivered to all people in need, whether they are in IDP camps or host communities.

“International organizations support and supplement the activities of local NGOs by providing assistance and technical support through cross-line convoys. These cross-line convoys are cleared through administrative procedures involving both the Myanmar [Burma] authorities and the KIO [the political arm of the KIA], and we are currently waiting for the finalization of this process,” said Péron.

An emergency aid coordinator based in Muse, on the border with China, told The Irrawaddy that local NGOs are planning an emergency meeting to discuss solutions for food and other shortages.

“Our aid convoy could get to the 105-mile gate [still within government territory], but the Burma Army wouldn’t let our mobile team carry the aid inside to distribute it to displaced people,” said Zau San, who works with the Kachin Baptist Convention. “This is the policy of the Burma Army. They want to restrict aid for refugees.”

Conflict continues in Kachin and Shan states between the government and a number of ethnic armed groups. Two of the area’s largest armed groups, the KIA and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, are the only major non-state armies that have yet to secure bilateral ceasefires with the government as it aims to reach a nationwide peace pact.

The government cited sporadic clashes near a road leading to Bhamo as the impetus for several artillery “warning shots” that landed on a KIA military academy near Laiza in November. The blast, which the government said was not intended to target the academy, killed 23 cadets.

The OCHA bulletin proposed a US$192 million budget to provide assistance for the some 240,000 people currently displaced by communal conflict and civil war throughout Burma.