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MYANMAR: Kachin aid groups running on empty

BANGKOK, 13 September 2011 (IRIN) - Kachin aid groups are running out of means to help more than 25,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the border between Myanmar and China.

"The situation is worsening now because no one here has the capacity to support them," La Rip, coordinator for the Relief Action Network for IDPs and Refugees (RANIR), incorporating 12 local community organizations, told IRIN from the border town of Laiza.

Civil departments from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) - the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) - have been providing most of the food at 15 makeshift camps around the border, La Rip said. But as the conflict enters it fourth month, additional support is urgently needed, he added.

"People are getting only a small amount of rice a day, without any nutritional support," said La Rip. "We are at the moment worried about their food security and shelter, with winter advancing."

Since 9 June, tens of thousands of civilians have fled from rural parts of eastern Kachin State, when the Burmese Army attacked the KIA, ending a 17-year-old ceasefire between the two armies and sending thousands of civilians fleeing to the Kachin-China border, towns and jungle areas.

Much of the conflict focuses on Kachin resistance to a government plan to recruit their men into a single state-run border guard force.

Most IDPs are living in temporary bamboo shelters with plastic sheet roofing. The crowded living conditions, poor sanitation and lack of clean water have led to illness - seven children died, mainly of diarrhoea and malaria, in Laiza during August. At one site, 2,000 people are sharing 10 toilets, say aid workers.

"We are in very urgent need of medicine," said Mai Ja, an aid worker with the Kachin Women's Association Thailand, who is based in a camp supporting 3,000 IDPs along the border.

The uprooted civilians also need school supplies, psycho-social support, and shelter as winter approaches, La Rip said.

RANIR has raised more than US$312,000 for relief needs, mainly from the KIO and Kachin communities in Myanmar, China and abroad. But that money is nearly gone, Mai Ja said.

A $2.4 million request sent to the international funding community in July has had little response, aside from some $38,000 donated by two European NGOs, money that is still being processed.

Meanwhile, as of 13 September, the fighting continues.

"People are really afraid to go back to their villages," La Rip said.

Since fighting broke out in June, the UN and other international agencies have not had access to the area.

es/ds/mw

Theme (s): Conflict, Refugees/IDPs,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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