IDP Camp in Myanmar’s Kachin State in Lockdown

By The Irrawaddy 28 July 2021

A camp in Kachin State’s Waingmaw Township sheltering some 3,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) is under COVID-19 lockdown and in need of personal protective materials and food.

Maina IDP camp has been locked down since July 21, a few days before four IDPs there fell ill. The four tested positive for COVID-19 after being taken to hospital, camp manager Brang Seng told The Irrawaddy.

“They are now receiving treatment at the hospital. The camp has been locked down since July 21. So we have to isolate some in an already isolated camp. We need food supplies and medicines as well as COVID-19 protective materials like personal protective equipment [PPE] and gloves,” he said.

Maina is the largest IDP camp in Waingmaw with 2,916 people from 532 households. IDPs there previously relied on international aid supplies, but these days they have to do casual and seasonal jobs outside the camp, as they only receive 10,000 kyats (about US$6) per month.

With the camp under a one-month lockdown until Aug. 21 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, IDPs are cash-strapped to buy food. The IDPs said they have not yet received their monthly allowance of 10,000 kyats for July. The money is donated by international agencies including the World Food Program via local charities.

“We have four PPE sets left from the COVID-19 second wave. But they are simply not enough if COVID-19 breaks out. And we also need vehicles to transport patients to the hospitals. Currently, we only have motorbikes,” Brang Seng said.

The four patients who are receiving treatment at Waingmaw Hospital developed symptoms two to four days after the camp was locked down. The patients said they had not left the camp recently.

“Camp authorities locked down the camp on July 21 for fear that the virus might spread from outside. But then, four people caught the virus after the lockdown. This means the virus is already spreading in the camp. We are very concerned. We have neither medicines nor masks,” said a female IDP at the camp.

The IDPs have agreed to share the camp’s remaining food among themselves as a temporary solution. Camp authorities have asked the Waingmaw Township Health Department to come to the camp and carry out coronavirus tests on those who are sick and those who have had contact with them.

An IDP camp in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina has also reported 16 COVID-19 cases.

More than 3,400 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in Kachin State since a fresh wave of the coronavirus hit Myanmar in late May. Over 2,500 patients are still receiving treatment and 106 have died, according to the junta-controlled Ministry of Health and Sports.

When Myanmar was hit by the first and second waves of COVID-19 under the ousted civilian government, local Kachin parties, civil society organizations, political activists and students in Kachin formed the Kachin State Volunteer Team for COVID-19 and took an active part in the fight against the pandemic.

The military regime, which seized power in a coup in February, has however arrested politicians, political activists and students that oppose military rule, and the Kachin State Volunteer Team for COVID-19 has not been able to function during the third wave of infections.

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