Kachin IDPs Hit Hard by Reduced Humanitarian Aid

By Yen Saning 11 June 2015

RANGOON—Local humanitarian organizations providing aid to the internally displaced Kachin population said they are facing a severe shortage of funding from international donor groups this year.

Five humanitarian organizations within the nine that comprise the local relief network said they have only secured US$8 million, nearly 45 percent of the estimated $19 million of funding needed for 2015 to support the Joint Strategy Team for Humanitarian Response in Kachin and northern Shan states (JST).

The JST consortium has called for donors to increase financial support in order to meet urgent humanitarian needs until northern Burma’s IDPs can safely return to their homes.

The 2015 Humanitarian Response Plan by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that more than $71 million is needed to assist 120,000 people in need of humanitarian aid in Kachin and northern Shan States. OCHA is coordinating humanitarian responses at the local and national level.

“With large-scale humanitarian crises such as Syria, Nepal, and the Central African Republic, humanitarian donors globally are currently stretched and we are very concerned that the humanitarian response in Myanmar will suffer from underfunding,” Pierre Péron, spokesperson for OCHA Myanmar, told The Irrawaddy by email.

“The prolonged nature of the displacement in Kachin [State] and northern Shan [State] requires continuous assistance across sectors. Temporary shelters, sanitation and other facilities require renovation or replacement. Some relief items distributed early on need to be replaced,” Péron said.

Other UN organizations like the World Food Programme (WFP) are also feeling the cutbacks. A spokesperson reported that the program requires an additional $29 million to meet assistance needs in the country until the end of the year. “If no funds are received, the food pipeline will break in August. New contributions are required as soon as possible,” a WFP spokesperson said via email.
Gum Sha Awng, program coordinator for the Metta Development Foundation, said the JST team learned last week that 9,000 IDPs in seven camps located in areas controlled by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), will face cuts to food rations starting as soon as July this year due to reduced funding. The Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) has been supporting the camps for two years, but has experienced cuts in donor aid.

“These seven camps are [in areas] that none of the UN convoys have reached,” said S Gun Mai, program manager at the Shalom Foundation, another JST member organization, explaining that the camps “are far from [central] Burma and can only be accessed from China.”

JST member Karuna Myanmar Social Services (KMSS) provides food rations to 40 camps in the conflict area which house a total population of 40,000 IDPs.

According to Father Paul Awng Dang, director of KMSS, the rainy season has made lives particularly difficult and destroyed many temporary shelters. Frequent fighting near the camps has also contributed to the insecurity.

“Decreasing funds places more pressure and a bigger burden on local humanitarian organizations,” he said. “In reality, we cannot reduce aid, since a ceasefire agreement has not been implemented yet.”

He said the most significant reduction in funding has come from KMSS’s main donor, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), who, at the time of publication, had not replied to The Irrawaddy’s request for comment. DFID has been providing rice, oil and salt to the IDPs for four years.

UN OCHA’s Péron said once a nationwide ceasefire agreement is achieved, issues such as the threat of landmines, current lack of livelihood opportunities, and insufficient access to basic services such as health and education should be addressed before people can go home.

Tuesday marked the fourth anniversary of the restart of fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burma Army after the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire. Over 100,000 people remain displaced by the conflict.