Pre-Christmas Fundraiser for Kachin IDPs in Full Swing

By Nyein Nyein 15 December 2015

In the weeks before Christmas, a local civil society group has launched a holiday fundraiser to provide aid to Burma’s tens of thousands of ethnic Kachin internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The campaign, organized by the Kachin Peace Network, is being carried out through Facebook and will last until Dec. 20. Funds collected will be given to IDPs, in conjunction with the Joint Strategy Team (JST) for Humanitarian Response in Kachin and Northern Shan State, a collaboration of nine Kachin civil society groups that have joined together to support IDPs.

Mai Hla Aye, a volunteer with the network, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the campaign was started with the simple goal of contributing as much as possible to IDPs, the majority of whom are Christian.

“They haven’t been able to participate in Christmas activities for years, so we just want to give them something, especially since we tend to celebrate this time of year with family,” she said.

So far the campaign has raised more than 12 million kyats (US$9,200) in two weeks’ time. Supporters can donate in person, online or through the bank.

Mai Hla Aye, who is ethnic Chin and director of the think-tank Another Development, said funds will be transferred to the JST, which will then see to it that they are distributed to Kachin, Shan and Palaung IDPs in remote displacement camps.

Since a 17-year ceasefire between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burma Army broke down in 2011, violence in Kachin and northern Shan states has displaced an estimated 100,000 people. When including returnees, host families, and other crisis-affected people, this number spikes to about 140,000.

According to campaign organizers, less than 48 percent of IDPs’ basic needs are being met, and they are in desperate need of sustained humanitarian assistance.

The Facebook page of the Concern, Care and Contribute to IDPs group, of which the Kachin Peace Network is a member, states that as a result of conflict, IDPs have not been able to properly celebrate Christmas for the past five years. Rather than a time of joy, this time of year is one of “sorrow and sadness,” as violence has stripped them of their property and separated them from their loved ones.

“We want this civil war to cease. We have suffered the military’s abuses not only in Kachin State but also in Chin State,” added Mai Hla Aye, who has spearheaded other fundraising campaigns for IDPs this year.

Last Tuesday, the German Embassy in Rangoon released a statement pledging some 1.3 million euros ($1.43 million), via the Metta Development Foundation, in humanitarian assistance to aid Burma’s war-torn areas.

But there has been a shortage of IDP assistance in 2015, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which said Friday that about 1 million people in Burma, including victims of both conflict and natural disasters, need support.

Of this total need, Kachin and Shan refugees account for more than 100,000 IDPs. An additional 4,000 people in Kyethi and Mong Hsu townships in southern Shan State have also recently been displaced. The 2015 Humanitarian Response Plan called for $71.4 million to meet humanitarian needs in Kachin and northern Shan states. As of now, only $35.7 million, or 50 percent, has been received this year.

“Because these particular areas are unstable, refugees and IDPs there suffer every winter,” said Aye Win, a UN information officer in Rangoon.

“We need collaboration from local groups in order to meet their humanitarian needs.”