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Danish Refugee Council recently took part of a United Nation lead cross line mission into one of the hardest to reach areas of Myanmar. The main purpose for the UN was the distribution of food and assessment of needs, and DRC took this opportunity to conduct needs assessments - focusing primarily on female protection concerns. The cross line mission was the first of its kind in nearly two years that have been permitted to deliver assistance to the area.
Due to the conflict between the Myanmar government and Kachin Independent Army, the northern part of the country has been divided into different areas with different level of access. Camps with internally displaced people are scattered across all areas, with the majority placed in accessible locations, but some are located in very hard to reach areas close to the border to China. Latest numbers indicate that over 50.000 people live in prolonged displacement in these restricted areas alone, and due to the limited access; a significant needs gap remains there.
National colleagues from the Danish Refugee Council are on a regular basis entering the hard to reach areas to distribute Non-Food Items, built shelter and offer protection assistance. However this is the first time an international DRC staff member has been granted access to the restricted area to carry out needs assessments.
DRC staff conducted both individual interviews and focus group discussions with internally displace in three camps around the small city of Laiza, one of these camps is Je Yang Hka. In this camp the needs are apparent, especially in terms of water, hygiene and sanitation, but also abuse and human trafficking over the border into China is becoming a serious threat, and a horrible reality, for many of the women living in displacement. As Eliso, protection officer for DRC in Kachin says:
“The conditions are horrible for everyone in the camp – especially for the women. There are no privacy here, not where they sleep and rarely even when they bathe or have to use the latrines.”
Not much have moved in the area for the last two years. Return for the displaced people are still not an option as basic infrastructure and services are missing. There is a huge lack of livelihood options and the fear of landmines is ever present. This part of Myanmar has been in a constant flux between conflict and peace for many years. However, the effort for creating durable solutions through peace and reconciliation is getting more and more support, and hope is emerging in the communities.
“Despite the dire situation, I couldn’t help but sense a hidden strength in these women – they had an aura of hope, determination and a strong believe that things will get better” states Eliso who herself shares the same hopes and dreams.
DRC will continue to strive for a life in dignity for the displaced people in the region, and is currently building new and better shelters, distributing Non-Food Items and offering protection assistance for the most vulnerable.