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A distribution of hygiene products in a camp for displaced people in Kachin State, northern Myanmar.  Photo: Eoghan Rice / Trócaire

A distribution of hygiene products in a camp for displaced people in Kachin State, northern Myanmar. Photo: Eoghan Rice / Trócaire

Caritas has launched humanitarian operations to help people driven from their homes by conflict in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Around 100,000 people have been displaced in Kachin and northern Shan states since June 2011.

Government forces have been shelling villages, looting and taking prisoners. The offensive is against pro-independence militia KIA and KIO in the north of the country. The aim is to drive out the militia. Many believe the government also wants to take control of natural resources and logging routes.

“People are feeling very demoralised at having to leave their homes and live in camps,” says Zono Mania, Caritas Internationalis project manager based in Myanmar. “They desperately need a safe life, protection for themselves and their family members.”

The emergency appeal will help over 37,000 people over the course of a year. The budget for the project is €1.7 million. Caritas will provide water, food, health services and lodging to people wanting to return home. Caritas will help people staying in 48 camps in the Myitkyina, Bhamo and Lashio dioceses.

People in the camps will receive food packages comprising rice, oil, salt and beans. Communities will also receive fuel efficient stoves to ensure women don’t risk their safety collecting firewood and to prevent deforestation.

Caritas will invest in providing over 400 shelters in five camps. The maintenance of shelters will also be budgeted for in the programme. Clean water infrastructure, latrines and hygiene kits will be provided.

Around 7,600 children are living in camps. Caritas will create spaces where they can learn and study as well as renovating existing schools and contributing to the salaries of a number of teachers.

Children at a school in a camp for displaced people in Kachin State in northern Myanmar. Photo: Eoghan Rice/Trócaire

Thousands flee conflict in Myanmar, like these children at a school in a camp for displaced people in Kachin State in northern Myanmar. Photo: Eoghan Rice/Trócaire

For those who are particularly vulnerable such as orphans, children, elderly people and people with disabilities, Caritas will offer counselling. There will also be provision to contribute to the funeral expenses of very poor families.

Camps will receive basic health supplies and community health workers will get a small salary as part of the emergency programme.

Caritas will provide training to local staff to equip them with the skills to carry on the emergency programme. Training in small holder farming techniques will be given within the community.

The issue of those displaced returning to their homes isn’t simple. Caritas will support people wanting to return but also do awareness raising on the risks entailed.

More than 50,000 people are now staying in areas beyond government control. Some 10,000 people are living with host families.