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After long delay, UN aid reaches Kachin refugees

Government allows convoy into rebel territory

<p>Kachin refugees shelter in a camp in Kachin State, Myanmar (AFP)</p>

Kachin refugees shelter in a camp in Kachin State, Myanmar (AFP)

  • John Zaw, Mandalay
  • Myanmar
  • June 14, 2013
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A convoy carrying aid for more than 5,000 Kachin refugees have reached Ma Jai Yang, a rebel controlled town near the Chinese border, the UN said today.

It marks the first time in nearly a year that the Myanmar government has allowed outside aid to reach the refugees there. Naypyidaw has been fearful that giving the nod to outside assistance for refugees in opposition territory would strengthen the Kachin Independence Army.  

The lifting of the blockade comes after the government and Kachin rebels signed a seven point agreement to scale back fighting, which has displaced more than 85,000 people.

The 10-truck relief convoy departed Banmaw on June 12 carrying food, household kits, and hygiene and sanitation supplies.

“It’s a step forward after the peace talks last month but we have been trying to access the rebel held territory to provide aid to the refugees for several months,” said Aye Win, National Information Officer at the UN.

Around 60,000 of those displaced are living outside of government control, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“We have faced funding shortages from the international community as well as local organizations so it’s a little relief for us when the UN aid reaches to the refugees,” said Sai Latt, from the Mai Ja Yang-based Wunpawng Ninghtwe relief organization.

“The urgent need for now is shelters as it’s the monsoon season and food and toilets are also needed in the present situation.”

Concerns remain however over how long the aid will last. Khon Ja, the coordinator of the Kachin Peace Network, cautiously welcomed the news, but said: “From my point of view,  it would be more effective and cut running costs if the UN itself doesn’t carry out the implementation and instead sends aid through the local relief organizations.”

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