The Irrawaddy

Humanitarian Groups Raise Money for IDP Christmas Meals

A Kachin IDP camp.

YANGON — Various humanitarian groups have started a campaign to host a Christmas feast for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kachin and Shan states on Dec. 25.

The project ‘Christmas Meal for IDPs’ aims to share joy, happiness and love with the estimated 120,000 IDPs, most of whom are Christian, said ‘Concern, Care, and Contribute to the IDPs Now,’ a humanitarian campaign initiated in 2015 for IDPs.

“By organizing this campaign, we want to tell them that we remember them, and we are with them. People from across the country contribute to this meal. Their individual contributions may be small but they still remember them and their plight. This is the message we want to share. We want to give them emotional support,” said Esther, a spokesperson of the campaign.

The campaign is collecting 1,000 kyats per person/per meal both online and offline, and has received more than 1 million kyats, according to campaigners.

More than 120,000 civilians have been forced from their homes over the past six and a half years and are taking shelter at 167 IDP camps across Kachin and Shan States due to the clashes between the Tatmadaw and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), as well as other ethnic armed groups such as the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

Some of the camps are in government-controlled areas, some are in areas controlled by armed ethnic groups and others are along the Myanmar-China border.

By the end of 2016, the World Food Program (WFP) had slashed its foods supplies to IDPs by some 50 percent, and IDP camps in Kachin and Shan states face food shortages as a result.

Some camps still receive a month’s ration of some 13 kg of rice plus just 2,500 kyats per meal per person, while some camps do not receive anything.

Hundreds of IDPs from three camps in Kachin State’s Waingmaw were forced from their camps due to Tatmadaw attacks toward the end of 2016, and have had to take refuge in new camps at Shait Yang on the Myanmar-China border where temperatures drop below zero in the winter.

Clashes in June this year also forced more than 1,000 Tanai residents from their homes to three new IDP camps. Those camps have had to rely on domestic donors as they do not receive aid from international countries, and are facing food shortages as well.

“We’ll contact JST after collecting money to make donations at the camps. If we get a good sum, we’ll donate to all the camps. If not, we will give priority to needier camps,” said Esther.

JST is a coalition of community-based and non-governmental organizations that have led most of the humanitarian efforts in Kachin State since the renewed clashes broke out in June 2011.

“Some camps at the border are facing greater hardships than others. Some of them have had to relocate two or three times and we’ll give priority to such camps,” said Gam Sha Awng, a JST spokesperson.

Donations for Christmas Meals can be made on the Concern, Care and Contribute to the IDPs Now Facebook page, which began the campaign for the first time in December 2015 and was able to collect some 30 million kyats that year.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.