Due to its geography, Myanmar is frequently hit by natural disasters including cyclones, earthquakes and floods. One of the most tragic events of the past years happened in 2008 when Cyclone Nargis took the lives of 140,000 people and several million other people found themselves in an immediate state of emergency. In 2015, the country was hit by Cyclone Komen.
After Nargis, PIN focused on immediate humanitarian aid, which consisted mainly of the distribution of material for the survival of victims and the reconstruction of shelter. At the same time, PIN provided psychosocial support, medical care and subsequently helped the residents in restoring their livelihoods – i.e. fishing, agriculture and small businesses.
Supporting internally displaced people in Rakhine
Since 2012, People in Need has been working in the Rakhine state in Myanmar. We have been focusing on encouraging dialogue among the members of different ethnic and religious groups, supporting civil society and delivering humanitarian aid and recovery after devastating floods. After the attacks on the 25th of August 2017 committed by the Rohingya’s insurgent group ARSA against police and army stations, the Myanmar’s government responded by military operations, which resulted in hundreds of casualties and burnt villages and created more than 650,000 IDPs – people, who out of fear had to flee their homes.
The number of people shows the severity of the situation in the Northern Rakhine state. Therefore, People in Need decided to step in and started to support people, who were forced to abandon their homes, and lost all their belongings. Some 200,000 people have been trapped in villages with limited access to the local market, humanitarian aid and medical care. Since September, People in Need in cooperation with local partner organization has been distributing food and necessary items to the most vulnerable groups (women, children, aged led families, families with disabilities, etc.). People in Need is one of the few organizations working in this particular region. So far, we have helped hundreds of families and we continue to help them as the current crisis persists. Given the sensitive relations between different ethnic groups, all humanitarian aid is as always distributed based on the principle of neutrality and inclusiveness. These activities are funded thanks to the People in Need’s Club of Friends.
Cyclone Nargis which hit Myanmar in May 2008 took the lives of more than 140,000 people. An additional 100,000 found themselves suddenly without shelter, lost their livelihoods and remained with no access to basic needs such as food or water. Altogether around 2.5 million people were severely affected.
People in Need took immediate action one week after the cyclone. In the first phase, People in Need concentrated on providing emergency aid in response to urgent humanitarian needs. Through local partners, PIN distributed food, drinking water, purification tablets, clothing and tarpaulins for construction of temporary shelters. Later PIN focused on restarting livelihoods of fishermen, farmers and small retailers.
Population of the rural areas in the afflicted regions received skills trainings and were provided with boats, nets and farm animals. In cooperation with local partners, sources of drinking water, shelters and basic infrastructure such as piers, roads, culverts and schools were reconstructed.
Parallel to the reconstruction process, a psycho-social support program was launched acknowledging that its timely provision is the key to preventing trauma and long-term psychological disorders in areas stricken by catastrophe.
Supporting internally displaced persons
Animosity between different ethnic groups in Kachin State, which had been bubbling under the surface for decades again flared into conflict in 2011. Apart from hundreds of dead on both sides, civil war has also caused the displacement of another 50 thousand Kachins who live near the border with China. While some of them fled to areas on the Chinese side of the border, others remain nearer their devastated homes or have ended up in overcrowded refugee camps in Burma. These people have lost not only their homes, but also their source of livelihood and their children (who account for 40% of displaced persons) face an uncertain future, unable to continue in their schooling.
In cooperation with their partners, People in Need has provided shelters and the essentials for life to over 5,000 internally displaced persons. It has focused aid at refugees behind the Chinese border and in camps within territory under the control of the Kachins, while always concentrating on the most disadvantaged groups of refugees: mothers, the elderly and children. In addition to providing immediate humanitarian aid, we also arranged interim education for children of school age. In cooperation with our partners, we set up six schools in the vicinity of the camp and saw to it that the schoolchildren were able to attend. These projects were financed mainly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and by the People in Need Club of Friends.
Cross-border Humanitarian Aid
In the vast areas along the south-eastern and eastern frontiers of Myanmar, on top of the armed conflict, the local population has struggled against malaria and malnutrition due to that fact that virtually no system of state-run health care exists. Virtually the only providers of healthcare are local community organizations, often coordinated from exile in Thailand. Some of these organizations have built stationary clinics within Myanmar, while others have helped in areas where it is not possible to work in this way due to security concerns by providing medical care via mobile health teams.
People in Need has worked systematically with these organizations. Since 2010, it supported several groups providing healthcare to more than 300,000 inhabitants of these border regions who have been constantly endangered by the unstable situation in the area. Apart from that, People in Need supported stationary clinics in stabilized areas as well – several dozens of which were provided with medicines and other medical materials (primarily antimalarial drugs). PIN also supported a construction of a health clinic in Shan State, which primarily serves internally displaced people.
Emergency Flood Response in the Rakhine state
PIN, in cooperation with a local partner, distributed equipment and furniture (including tables, chairs, black boards, bookshelves) to 20 schools that were affected by Cyclone Komen and assisted the construction of a temporary learning space in a village in Northern Rakhine. Given the complexity of relations between different ethnic groups, all humanitarian aid takes place under strict conditions and PIN promotes an approach based on neutrality and inclusiveness.
Humanitarian Aid in Kachin State
In cooperation with our partner organizations, PIN provided food and nutritious food supplements, assisted with the construction of temporary schools and shelters, improved access to drinking water as well as support for alternative livelihoods.
Our help targeted primarily the most disadvantaged groups of IDPs: pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, the elderly and children.