Kachin IDPs Risk Their Health for Work During Coronavirus Epidemic

04/09/2020 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – Despite the Burmese government’s orders and lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kachin state continue to leave their camps for work in order to buy food amid shortages of humanitarian aid.

Bran Ming, leader of Jan Mai Kawng IDP camp on the outskirts of Myitkyina in Kachin state told Radio Free Asia, “About 200 people are going out of the IDP camps every day for work. Some of them have to go out twice a day.”

He added, the IDPs go to Myitkyina, the state capital, and to the nearby town of Waingmaw to work, while others head to friends’ houses for jobs or work in villages near the camp. Although some people have donated masks and hand soaps, the supplies are insufficient for the Jan Mai Kawng camp with more than 2000 IDPs.

A lockdown is desirable, yet these IDPs are already living in financial hardship, so not working would affect their ability to bring food to the table for their family. The spread of COVID-19 is not what concerns them the most, their survival is.

The mostly Christian Kachin ethnic group has suffered from an ongoing armed conflict between their ethnic militia and the Burmese Army since 2011. The fighting has since displaced nearly 100,000 civilians who are now living in 138 camps in government-controlled, ethnic army-controlled, and contested areas, according to a report by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued Jan. 31.

These IDPs are among the most vulnerable groups as the country starts to see a growth of Coronavirus confirmed cases. Once they are hit, it would be hard to contain the disease given the poor sanitary conditions and lack of space in the camps.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org.

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