Kachin NGOs Ask for Mask Donations for IDPs Near China-Myanmar Border

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 29 January 2020

Yangon – Volunteers providing humanitarian assistance for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Kachin State have appealed for donations of masks for some 40,000 civilians taking shelter on the Chinese border following the coronavirus outbreak in China.

Volunteers have asked for mask donations on the Facebook page “Concern, Care and Contribute to the IDPs Now”.

“We only received less than 50,000 kyats [US$35] worth of masks in Myitkyina on Monday. We plan to send donations from Myitkyina to Laiza, and donations from Bhamo to Maijayang. We assume that even if everyone cannot get masks if someone is suspected of contracting the virus, they should wear a mask,” said Khun Ja of the Kachin Peace Network.

She said volunteers were asking for mask donations rather than cash. Stocks of masks have almost run out in major cities in Myanmar due to a sudden surge in demand.

Over 40,000 IDPs are currently taking shelter in nine camps in areas controlled by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) near the Chinese border. They account for 40 percent of total IDPs who have been displaced since 2011 due to the renewed clashes between Myanmar’s military and the KIA.

“Priority will be given to the places with higher risk. For example, in Maijayang, there are a lot of casinos run by Chinese citizens and there is a higher risk of contact as a result,” said Khun Ja.

International donors, including the World Food Program, have provided food supplies for the IDPs in Kachin State from 2012 to 2016. But donors have now cut aid to less than 10,000 kyats ($7) per person a month.

Project coordinator Seng Nu of the Karuna Mission Social Solidarity, which provides assistance to Kachin IDPs, said her organization had not been able to provide free masks at the camps.

“There are many IDPs at Je Yang, Hpun Lum Yang and Woi Chyoi camps. As they live in densely crowded conditions, if someone is infected, it can spread quickly. We are concerned,” she told The Irrawaddy.

Five residents in Laiza said masks were no longer on sale in the town and they were asking people in Myitkyina to send more.

KIA information officer Colonel Naw Bu said the KIA was issuing health warnings to residents through Laiza FM and Laiza TV. There are official border gates in Laiza and Maijayang and both were still open, he said.

The KIA had no plans to supply free masks within its controlled areas, Col. Naw Bu added.

“If the virus does spread, there will be difficulty buying masks. We heard masks are almost sold out in China as well as in Myitkyina. But for the time being, there is no problem,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The KIA lacked the medical facilities to treat large numbers of patients and was in talks with China’s Dehong Prefecture over possible treatment in the event of an outbreak, he added.

The number of reported deaths from the virus has risen to 132 in China, the National Health Commission of China said on Wednesday. More than 5,900 cases have been confirmed while there are more than 90,000 suspected cases in the country.

The virus has been reported in Thailand, the US, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, France, Vietnam, Nepal, Canada, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Germany.

Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports said there were still no suspected cases in the country.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko