At a time when there are signs that the Burmese regime is softening its position, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has made a major breakthrough on the humanitarian front. After more than three years of emergency action and reconstruction projects in the southern and western areas which were decimated by cyclones Nargis and Giri, one of our teams has initiated an emergency program in Kachin State. Since January 2012, we have been supporting victims fleeing from confrontations between the government forces and the rebel army, which started in June 2011.
The fighting has caused the displacement of more than 65,000 people,” states Matthew Gray, our Head of Mission for Myanmar. “They have grouped together around churches and monasteries, in camps of 30 to 2,000 people. With support from the French government (Centre de Crise), we are currently focusing our action in about 15 camps in the Bhamo district. In addition to winter flu, sanitation problems are on the increase, notably in the form of diarrhoea and respiratory ailments. To improve living conditions, we are digging wells, building latrines and distributing basic necessities, according to need: soap, winter shelters and clothing, personal hygiene kits for women, etc.
From land mines to insecurity
Now that the fighting seems to have drawn to a close, our 15-person team is currently compiling a diagnosis of post-conflict needs. We have to identify the obstacles preventing the populations from returning home and to define the most appropriate response to meet their vital needs and assist their resettlement.
The idea is to determine what would be their sources of income” explains Matthew, “as well as the impact of the conflict on their livelihoods. The loss of the harvests and seeds, for example, is an indicator of the serious food security problems. We are therefore going to concentrate on re-launching farming activities by supplying tools and seeds. But between the numerous land mines which are scattered throughout the area and the insecurity which persists in certain places, travel, and thus access to markets, will prove difficult.
SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL, the only humanitarian organization present in this area, has set up its base at Bhamo. This town, in the heart of the conflict zone, will be the starting point for our action: to support as many inhabitants as possible on their difficult road to recovery.”